Rep. Chris Stewart:
We have but one word that applies to your conduct these past few days:
Really? Full stop.
As one would have expected more of a retired major in the United States Air Force.
You, of all people, saw fit to rebuke Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman: “Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?” And then, to add insult to injury, you felt the need to gratuitously add, “I see you’re wearing your dress uniform knowing that’s not the uniform of the day. You normally wear a suit to the White House.”
One can but wonder as to your motives in piling on the deliberate insult by Rep. Nunes, who deliberately referred to Lt. Col. Vindman as “Mr.” The only person with dignity in that exchange was Vindman, who maintained his pose in the moment and responded, “Ranking Member, it is Lt. Col. Vindman, please.” Neither you, Rep. Stewart, nor Nunes, had an ounce of dignity or respect. And don’t get us started on Rep. Jim Jordan.
Which brings us to the larger, and more important point: You and your fellow Republican members of Congress, who are entrusted with ensuring the executive branch faithfully execute the laws — recall the quaint concept of checks and balances — have fallen victim to an instinctual “protect the President” mode.
That, Rep. Stewart is not your job. Perhaps it is tempting to fall prey to that. Perhaps you (and others) perceive short-term political gain. Perhaps you (and others) wish to please our Fox News-watching president. Perhaps you perceive importance in that.
However, the notion of duty and public service — which you, as a retired officer, know better than most — goes beyond personal gain. The notion, quoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur, of “duty, honor, country” is worth taking a moment to consider.
When you and your colleagues demean, insult, minimize, berate public servants who come before your committee, you do nothing more than belittle yourselves. What is particularly noteworthy is the vitriol with which you and your colleagues conduct yourselves. Truth be told, there is no substance in your line of questioning. It is akin to lashing out because, perhaps, you realize that there is nothing else in your arsenal.
Politics is a rough and tumble business. Harry Truman’s famous, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” is as applicable today as it was then. Of that, there is no doubt.
Perhaps a warning bell — or, at least, a yellow flag of caution — should be alert in your individual and collective minds. History, Rep. Stewart, does not shine positively on those who are instinctually complicit and fail to do their duty. Whether your line of questioning makes you an enabler or a mere bystander is a matter of interpretation. Perhaps.
What is not a matter of interpretation, and hence the source of deep concern regarding your conduct — and that of your colleagues — is that you are, given the line of questioning, are complicit in the unmitigated attacks against honorable men and women.
One would assume that is a label that someone with your credentials, background, and training would run from as quickly as possible. That, after all, is the essence of respect and dignity.
It would, frankly, behoove you, Rep. Stewart, to fulfill the duty to which you were elected.
Amos N. Guiora, J.D., Ph.D., is a professor of law at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. He will be speaking on his new book, “Populist and Islamist Challenges for International Law”, at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the King’s English Bookshop, 1511 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City.