Americans can be excused for feeling something less than thankful for the ongoing depredations of Washington’s ruling regime. Every day for more than three years, we have awakened to the nightmare of a president and his entourage gnawing away at constitutional government like demented termites, seemingly determined to advance the objectives of foreign adversaries and keen to divide us from one another. Every day we see how the rot that this president represents has ruined not just the White House and his administration but the Republican Party, whose leading figures have fully capitulated to his fantastic lies, his corrupt betrayals and his criminal misconduct. And every day, he damages our prestige and our prospects.
We will be profoundly thankful when all that finally ends, with the same sense of relief that led three of our greatest presidents – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt – to proclaim and renew Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
And yet, even amid the divisive impeachment that President Donald Trump made inevitable, there are reasons for us to feel grateful as Americans. Perhaps the most important is that we still live in a country where patriotic citizens step up to not only serve but also defend the Constitution and the rule of law against those in authority. The very highest of American ideals still motivate strong, smart, talented people to devote their lives to public service, even when that devotion requires them to jeopardize their own security. We are blessed to live in a country where virtue thrives, raising up remarkable citizens here and attracting many more who share our values.
So today, let’s appreciate the likes of George Kent, descended from a distinguished military family with service in both the Army and Navy; and William Taylor, who graduated at the top of his West Point class, left the military in disillusionment over Vietnam and has spent the decades since ably representing our country. Taylor returned to service despite grave doubts about Trump. Both he and Kent stood up for truth when they saw their worst concerns confirmed.
Let’s not forget to afford the same recognition to Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador repaid for 33 years of public service with a campaign of smears and falsehoods invented by the president’s creepy cronies. She stood up, too, despite those gross assaults and even death threats, not as a partisan but as an American.
We should acknowledge Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, whose decision to speak out against wrongdoing in the White House has provoked public vilification from Republican officials and ugly threats by their thuggish supporters. And we should toast David Holmes, a rising diplomat who endangered his future with his honest testimony about what he heard the president say over Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s cellphone.
We should tip our hats to Richard Spencer, the ex-Marine forced to resign as Navy secretary, and the many flag officers who have voiced their opposition to Trump’s encouragement of war crimes and military misconduct by his misuse of the pardon power. Our adversaries rejoice whenever we violate that legacy, which may well be why Trump does so eagerly and repeatedly. We’re indebted to the many men and women in uniform who sustain the legacy of honor that dates back to the Revolution, when George Washington refused to mimic the barbarism of the redcoats and punished any officer who did.
It is easy to swear an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution, as every politician is required to do. In dangerous times such as these, when the highest officials brazenly claim tyrannical authority and serve the interests of a hostile power, it can be difficult and very costly to uphold that declaration. We should be thankful indeed for those who fearlessly do so.