We're living in Gordon Sondland's world now.
This is not hyperbole. No Portlander has ever before assumed such a crucial role on the national stage—and certainly never with such grave stakes. For months, an impeachment inquiry has tightened its net around the Portland hotelier turned diplomat—and on Wednesday, he wriggled free as the world watched. Our Houdini escaped by implicating all his friends in the White House.
The New Yorker put it succinctly: "On Wednesday morning, an obscure millionaire from Portland who was such an amateur at international diplomacy that one of his colleagues compared him to a car careening down a mountain road without a G.P.S. or guard rails, came as close as anyone has yet to blowing up the Presidency of Donald Trump."
Sondland isn't just the inquiry's crucial—if unreliable—witness. He's also an irresistible dramatic character. He arrived in Congress on the most consequential day of his life wearing a smirk. His evident self-delight and self-amusement suggested a man who's been waiting his whole life for this much attention. He did not appear to care about any principles greater than Gordon Sondland. And now President Trump may be undone by his mirror image from Oregon.
It's worth taking a moment this Sunday to view the impact Sondland has made on the national landscape. Here are a few highlights.
- First off: What Sondland said was hugely significant. The New Yorker noted that Republicans were stunned: “They clearly had not anticipated the extent and nature of Sondland’s willingness to flip on the President.” The Guardian added: “That barfing sound you can hear is the noise of a thousand Republican talking points being forcefully ejected from the stomachs of a small platoon of Fox News anchors.”
- Sondland’s demeanor received nearly as much attention as his words. The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan said he had “resting happy face.” In The New York Times, Mark Leibovich said Sondland seemed unburdened: “Everything about Sondland-on-the-Hill on Wednesday screamed of a Past-the-Rubicon figure who just wanted his rich-guy life back in Oregon.”
- Every aspect of Sondland was analyzed, all the way down to the “18-carat white gold watch” on his wrist—which GQ said symbolized the extent of his betrayal.
- Sondland did not escape Capitol Hill unscathed, as these two video clips demonstrate. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney landed the first blow: “With all due respect, sir, we appreciate your candor, but let’s be clear what it took to get it.” And the next day, policy advisor Fiona Hill gave her devastating appraisal of him as a lackey: “He was being involved in a domestic political errand.”
- Late-night hosts had a field day. Jimmy Kimmel brought on a celebrity roaster for a Sondland impression. James Corden compared Sondland to a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills. And Samantha Bee had the upshot: “In order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy, you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy.”
- For many Portlanders, Sondland’s sudden fame feels dizzying. A lot of residents knew little about him until now. Good news: WW has closely watched him for years.