The Atlantic Daily: Alexander Vindman Speaks
Three notable moments from his conversation with our editor in chief
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A telephone call demolished Alexander Vindman’s life.
Vindman, who was famously on the line when President Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, served as a key witness during Trump’s impeachment trial.
Now Vindman speaks for the first time, warning about the American president’s attempts to please the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Here are three notable moments from his conversation with our editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg:
1. On whether Trump is a Russian-intelligence asset:
“President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot … an unwitting agent of Putin.”
(Some context via Jeffrey: “Useful idiot is a term commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes.”)
2. On whether Russia is blackmailing Trump:
“They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it.”
“In the Army, we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”
3. On the end of his Army career:
It was “destroyed” by the president, he says. “I’m not crying over spilled milk. I have other things to do.”
The news in three sentences:
(1) Fires continue to scorch the West—see how one photographer captured the blazes. (2) Major prodemocracy (and, notably, women-driven) demonstrations continue in Belarus. (3) And scientists found a possible sign of life on Venus (not definitive proof—but still unexpected).
One question, answered: How do I tell my parents I’m not planning on coming home for the holidays?
Our special-projects editor, Ellen Cushing, talked with one expert:
I asked Susan Newman, a social psychologist specializing in families and the author of The Book of No, about how adult children can have this conversation. Her advice? Let them down easy, but be firm. Explain that this doesn’t mean you love them any less, but that you’re worried about spreading the virus. Underscore that this is a temporary reaction to unprecedented events, not a permanent change. And make a plan now to be together in some way: Set up a FaceTime or Zoom call, or promise you’ll come visit as soon as it’s safe to travel, whenever that is.
If your parents push back, she recommends focusing on your own feelings of anxiety or fear, rather than trying to change their minds by bombarding them with statistics or news coverage. “You can say, ‘I understand how you feel but I don't feel the same. I’m quite frightened by this and I don’t feel it’s worth it,’” she said.
Most of all, stand your ground. In situations like this, Newman said, “you, the adult child go back to being your 10-year-old self, and you believe that for your parents to love you and be happy with you, you need to acquiesce to everything they ask and want.” But you don’t, and doing so sets a perilous precedent: “You don't want to slide back to your parents being the parent and you being the child, because you’re not a child anymore.”
What to read if … you need a break from the news:
Toby Dorr spent her life following the rules—until the day she helped a convict break out of prison.
Every week, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. In her most recent column, she advises a reader whose mom won’t stop nagging her about her weight:
I am heavier than some of my friends, but I’m not overweight. I remind her that my weight is fine because I’m strong and I dance a lot, but she doesn’t listen to me.
Read the rest, and Lori’s response. Write to her anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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