“Sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Shakespearian quote neatly summarizes the defense of the impeachment of the president. What the defenders of the president put forth is one defense or explanation after another. If one does not fit, try another.
But in doing so, these defenders, as well as the president, are committing a sin that does signify something. They are signifying the depths to which they will go to defend the indefensible. From a Jewish perspective, the sin of lashon hara, the evil tongue or malicious gossip, is being committed each and every day with each and every tweet and comment.
No American can take pleasure in the necessity of impeaching a president. It is disruptive and is counter to the desires of millions of Americans who voted for Trump. But the proof is out in the open, and the Republicans have failed to punch holes in the story of how a president tried to extort assistance for himself personally from Ukraine in 2019. In fact, Ukrainian soldiers died while waiting on military aid that was withheld waiting on the Ukrainian president to make an announcement that would benefit only Mr. Trump, and the Russian attack on Ukraine was entrenched. Only when the whistleblower’s complaint came to the attention of Congress was the aid released.
In an earlier instance of extortion, the effort was utterly successful. In 2017, the target of the president’s men was the investigations that Ukraine had started of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign manager. Manafort had helped elect an earlier president of Ukraine who was a buddy of Vladimir Putin. Millions of dollars were stolen from the Ukrainian people, including the money that Manafort made while serving that Ukrainian official.
The investigations were to find and retrieve money that had been stolen from the Ukrainian people by the Manafort-backed administration. And in order to get the first round of anti-tank weapons, the Ukrainian president at that time did stop those investigations in order to get the weapons. That was the original corruption story. Thus, any blowback on Trump was eliminated.
This second attempt in 2019 targeted the newest Ukrainian president. It put both him and American foreign policy at risk. And now it has put all of American foreign policy at risk. As long as Trump is president, who will know who is in charge of foreign policy: the career ambassador in any country, or Rudy Giuliani, or whoever is next in Trump’s circle.
Putting our foreign policy into such inexperienced and undisciplined hands is a shanda. I am embarrassed that some of these hands are Jewish, such as Lev Parnes and Igor Fruman. I will not spend any more time on them, other than to say that I am hoping that they will come forward to tell the truth of what happened.
But back to the sin of lashon hara. Trump and his allies are dumping all over the career military and foreign service personnel who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution. One of them is Colonel Vindman, a Jew who left the Soviet Union with his parents when he was three, a Soviet Jewish family who fled the Soviet Union when being a Jew was not just difficult, but at times a crime. He was then educated here, went into the Army, served with distinction in Afghanistan, and is now assigned to the National Security Council as a Ukrainian expert.
Because he saw his duty to come forward and tell the truth, he is vilified by the president and his allies, including the canard always thrown at the Jews of dual loyalty: “Oh, he has loyalties to Ukraine.” Everyone who repeated such nonsense must be challenged and condemned for such garbage.
And the other career people, ambassadors Yovanyovich, Taylor, and McKinley as well as others, are to praised and thanked for coming forward and telling the truth of what happened. Calling them “deep state” operatives is also garbage, part of the Steve Bannon school of tearing down the institutions that keep our democracy safe and free.
The Torah, the Tanach and the Talmud have many things to say about truth-telling and lying. As is described, some liars mislead their neighbors into believing that they are friends who have their welfare at heart, but their real purpose is only to win their neighbor’s confidence so as to be able to harm them. (See Jeremiah 9:8)
Other liars have their eyes on future benefits and tell lies in order to persuade their neighbors to give them gifts. Other liars mislead their neighbors by telling lies so as to obtain something of value from them or from others so that they can steal it for themselves. The rabbis compare all of this to idolatry, one of the three unforgivable sins.
The Jewish community, which depends on the health of the country we reside in, must be supportive of those who serve the nation through morality and truth-telling.