I have been one of the few people who have watched almost all of the impeachment hearings in Congress over the last week. I will admit to not reading all of the testimony. There are only so many times I can see the words “interagency consensus” before I lose my mind and my blood pressure reaches medically unsafe levels.

The public testimony has been rather tepid, filled with bureaucrat-speak and a bunch of “smart” subject matter experts talking among each other because they were out of the loop. Of course they were out of the loop. At every turn and during the campaign, the professional class of Washington, D.C. has shown it’s disdain for the president.

Tuesday’s testimony was a further example of why President Trump was proven right to question who was in the know, and whom to trust within the layers of professionals who staff our government apparatus.

None more embody the attitude of Washington, D.C. than Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, NSC staffer and according to his public testimony, apparent leaker of the president’s call to “a member of the intelligence community” (read: whistle blower) and Ambassador George Kent. Because he disagreed with a change in policy and was suddenly outside of the circle of decision-makers.

Vindman described himself as an advisor to the President. Only in Washington, D.C., can someone who has never spoken to the president or even met the president co-opt this description to pad their resume. In a city chock full of “advisors,” and with multiple departments created just to counsel the president, well, let’s just say I would consider Lt. Col. Vindman one very small fish in an incredibly large and murky swamp.

What is extremely fascinating is that the Democrats think his testimony is some smoking gun toward impeachment. What his testimony brought out, aside from statements which differ from those reflected in his deposition, is that Vindman thought his voice wasn’t being heard and he was the authority.

And after watching Tuesday morning I am left with a couple questions regarding this latest round of impeachment theater.

Who exactly sets official U.S. policy?

Apparently there are more than a few civil servants who think that subject matter opinions are more important than decisions made by elected officials. Academic consensus.  And speaking of elected officials, Congress absolutely knows better, but thought scoring points by noting President Trump’s deviation from “official United States foreign policy” would be a rhetorical smoking gun. That is not the case.

Policy papers, think tank opinions and abstracts may score points with the permanent class and get you invited to all the best symposiums, but matters little when the rubber meets the road and decisions have to be made. Listening to “The Establishment” didn’t get Trump to the White House, or to the gold-plated penthouse for that matter.

At the end of the day, there is only one person’s opinion that matters when taking orders on foreign policy. The president’s. His policy is official policy. That isn’t situational or dependent on who sits behind the desk.

Yes, this policy and direction stuff would kind of be why elections matter.

Which leads to my

next question....

What exactly is the problem with the removal of Ambassador Yavonovich from her Ukraine post? Or any of these policy people that by statute serve at the pleasure of the president?

There were zero claims of abuse of power when President Obama recalled the entire diplomatic corps that was appointed by President George W Bush. Again, no claims of overreach when the Clintons replaced the entire Travel Office and attorneys within the DOJ.

Funny that. The cynic in me might postulate some form of bias and hypocrisy on the part of our political class in trying to tarnish normal, constitutional actions into nefarious backroom dealings by coincidentally, every Republican elected since Nixon.

I would argue that by not going scorched earth and firing anyone that had any tie to the Obama Administration who could legally be fired was a cardinal error that has allowed Democrats to continually attack the Trump Administration from within the White House.

Contrary to “accepted knowledge,” Ukrainian President Zelensky did not have a great relationship with our esteemed ambassador, due to her chummy relationship with the outgoing government, and communicated that she would not be a welcome partner to his government.

These opinions may not always be communicated over official channels, as the recent testimony has shown. The diplomatic class is a chatty group and opinions - informed or otherwise - make the rounds quickly enough.

Next question, is our political and elected class so insulated to international politics and current events that they do not remember that a former Ukrainian politician went to jail for interfering in the 2016 election? And that another, a bigwig in the anti-corruption group went down for.....corruption.

No, that is not a Russian talking point, but actual reality. Pretty much anyone close to power in Ukraine in recent history has been corrupt, no matter the side. To act as if Ukraine has not had issues when it comes to leaving behind less savory remnants of their Soviet rule is not serious. Bending reality to suit the narrative is nothing new in partisan politics. It’s nothing new on the floor of Congress, and it should not shock the sensibilities that impeachment, overturning the will of the American electorate, is no different than a campaign commercial.

But the hearings were also enlightening.

Prudence, with any new government, should be in order whenever the government is talking tax dollars. At least it should be. Foreign aid should not be a given because everyone comes with a hat in hand and a program worth funding.

Our professional class, on the surface, seems to not read any type of news that may possibly contradict the belief that there is only one way to conduct foreign policy, and for people who are supposed to know everything about a country they seem to only learn many things from American press accounts of other’s testimony.

Most importantly, I grow more concerned daily about these ever-concerned professionals and whose interests they ultimately serve. And no, I’m not even referencing the president’s interests. American taxpayers rate a little higher.

A leaking national security employee who thinks it is his prerogative and duty to advise a foreign leader to ignore the elected president and a Congress hellbent on giving Trump an asterisk really are not furthering the interests of the American people.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.