In their public testimonies, Bill Taylor, George Kent, and Masha Yovanovitch demonstrated professionalism, integrity, and plainspoken courage.
I had the good fortune of seeing those qualities up close over our many years together in the diplomatic trenches—out of sight, out of mind, and far from the public spotlight. It saddens me that our fellow citizens will learn about these patriotic Americans because of an impeachment inquiry, but I’m heartened that they’ve provided a vivid reminder of the dignity of public service in these undignified times.
Through their actions and words over recent weeks and months, they’ve also reminded us that human beings animate our institutions and civic norms, not faceless bureaucracies. And they’ve reminded us that the real threat to our democracy is not from an imagined deep state bent on undermining an elected president. Instead, it comes from a weak state of hollowed-out institutions and battered and belittled public servants, no longer able to uphold the ever more fragile guardrails of our democracy or compete on an ever more crowded, complicated, and competitive international landscape.
It’s not just the Trump administration’s acts of bureaucratic arson, such as the systematic sidelining of career officers or historic proposed budget cuts, which have brought applications to the Foreign Service to a two-decade low. And it’s not just its acts of political arson, such as the groundless, McCarthyist attacks against career professionals perceived to be disloyal to the Trump regime. It’s the cronyism and corruption that have infected so much of our diplomacy and that we see on full and gory display in the Ukraine scandal.