Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 November 2019


Having been glued to the television set for five days watching the public impeachment hearings against US President Donald Trump, live and in full color, I cannot resist sharing my three takeaways from the experience.

The first is that the most credible witnesses were the career people, the professionals, the civil servants from different agencies of government, who had felt something was wrong and decided to answer subpoenas from the US House of Representatives, in effective defiance of their bosses who themselves refused to honor the subpoenas. They were called in as “fact witnesses”—people like George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council (NSC) in the White House; Jennifer Williams of the Vice President’s Office; and David Holmes, political counselor at the US Embassy in Ukraine.

Their testimonies, which were given in the most factual, objective way, never wavering, never partisan, were daggers in the heart of the Trump administration’s efforts to pooh-pooh the charges brought against him by a whistleblower.

I wonder how many of our career government officials, placed in a similar situation, would dare to speak to power as these American counterparts have done. Of course, the chair of the intelligence committee of the US Congress, Adam Schiff, always prefaced the hearings with a statement to the effect that the House would not countenance any attempt to retaliate against the witnesses. Which then makes me wonder whether a similar pronouncement from our House of Representatives would be believed.

My second takeaway has to do with the immigration stance of Trump. He has been heard to say that there is no more room for new immigrants in the United States as it is already “full.” My grandson Jude tells me that the Des Moines metro area in Iowa has a population of 650,000 in an area of 9,500 sq km, whereas Metro Manila has a population of 13 million people in an area of 620 sq km. I wonder how Trump defines “full.”

In any case, the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry who struck me as the most zealous protectors of their country were Dr. Fiona Hill (a former senior official of the NSC) and Vindman. Hill comes from a poor (coal mining) working class family in the United Kingdom, and said she was an American “by choice,” becoming an American citizen in 2002. She also said that America provided her with opportunities she would never have gotten in her home country. She has three books on Russia (one on Putin) under her belt.
Her concern for the country of her choice made itself evident when she berated certain congressmen for believing and spreading the Russian propaganda that Ukraine, not Russia, had intervened in the 2016 US elections. She reminded them that the US intelligence community had come to that conclusion, and so had a bipartisan Senate report. She also warned them that Russia was gearing up to interfere in the 2020 elections, and that it was tearing the United States apart. Russia was the problem, she said. It was ridiculous (she may not have used the term) to blame Ukraine.

Vindman, on the other hand, was 3 years old when his father emigrated from Soviet Russia (part of the Jewish exodus). He and his brothers all joined the US military. I cried when, toward the end of his testimony, he described how his father was afraid for him because taking on the US president was the “ultimate risk.” So why did he do it? His answer: “Because it is my duty… because here, Right matters.” Why did I cry? Well, does right matter in the Philippines?

My third takeaway has to do with some possible similarities between the US situation and ours, especially after these observations from Chair Adam Schiff: “The President could have gotten rid of her (speaking of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch) anytime he wanted. But that’s not enough for this president. Now he has to smear and destroy those who get in his way.” And, “The president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability, and in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.”

You think?