Sean Duffy's attack on Lt Col Vindman backfired — and 'exposed the limits of the Trumpian smear reflex': Conservative
Rep. Sean Duffy (CNN)

Former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), now a paid commentator on CNN, caused outrage after insinuating that national security strategist and decorated war hero Alexander Vindman can't be trusted because he was born in Ukraine.


Writing for The Bulwark, Never-Trump conservative commentator Charlie Sykes argued that Duffy actually did us all a favor — by producing a pro-Trump argument so heinous and indefensible it forces the Right to have a reckoning. "He exposed (at least for now) the limits of Trumpian indecency" he wrote.

"Duffy exposed that fault line by attacking a decorated military veteran who was testifying before Congress. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded during a combat deployment to Iraq," wrote Sykes. "The New York Times described him as 'a scholar, diplomat, decorated lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and Harvard-educated Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council.'"

"None of that mattered to Trump World: Vindman was nothing except a threat. And so he had to be discredited," continued Sykes. "Vindman’s sin was his sworn testimony to Congress. 'I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen,' he told legislators, 'and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.'"

Trump and his apologists have, of course, attacked well-respected critics before — even a Gold Star family — but this time, it seemed to cross a line.

"Duffy’s CNN colleagues were the first to throw him under the bus," wrote Sykes. "Anchor Brianna Keillor denounced what she called Duffy’s 'anti-immigrant bigotry,' and noted pointedly that 'it’s an odd questioning of patriotism coming from Sean Duffy, the guy who spent part of his 20s on MTV’s The Real World ... while Alexander Vindman spent his on foreign deployments.' By the middle of the day, Duffy found himself deserted by Republicans, too, who rushed to defend Vindman’s patriotism. The harshest pushback came from Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, who called attacks on Vindman’s patriotism, 'shameful.'"

"This [is] what Trump expects and what he gets from his non-state actors at Fox News, such as Laura Ingraham, who also openly questioned Vindman’s patriotism," wrote Sykes. "But Ingraham and Duffy exposed the limits of the Trumpian smear reflex. As Greg Sargent points out, the 'revealing tell' of her attack on Vindman was that he was undermining Trump’s personal interests. 'Placing country before Trump is the real betrayal for which Vindman must be destroyed.'"

"Thanks to Duffy, though, Vindman may become Trump’s worst nightmare," concluded Sykes.

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