Hard Times at the State Deparment

I listened to part of the webinar by outgoing AFSA president Barbara Stephenson.  She said the temporary draw-down at the embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan are being made permanent. Other embassies are also being reduced.  The Iraq reduction is something like 75%.  This means that many positions will not be filled, and that many officers will not be going to the posts they were assigned to.  In addition, it sounds like the administration has requested further budget reductions for the State Department.  Even after the many senior Foreign Service officers who left because of polity disagreements under Secretary Tillerson, there still many senior officers who do not have assignments because of the staff reductions at many embassies.

I would guess that at least part of the problem is that the Republican administration views the career Foreign Service as too liberal.  There is probably some truth to that perception.  But while many officers may personally lean Democratic, they do let their personal politics enter into their work representing the US overseas, just as military officers perform their duties without reference to their personal politics.  Within the US government, Foreign Service officers will argue for policies that they believe are best of the US, which might mean arguing against some conservative policy proposals, but once the internal debates are over, the officers will soldier on and argue for the policies that have been agreed on when they represent the US to foreign governments.

It’s sad that after the Iraq war, the Defense Department under Sec. Robert Gates argued for more State Department officers in Iraq.  He pointed out that there were fewer FSOs than there were members of military bands.  He argued that often diplomacy was better than military force.  Now, we don’t even have a Secretary of Defense.

It’s hard to replace senior Foreign Service officers because much of their value comes from years of serving in countries that are of concern to US foreign policy.  They know the language, the culture, and often many of the senior officials running the country.  When they leave with their 20 or 30 years of knowledge and experience, it will take 20 or 30 years to replace them.


Anonymous Sources at NYT

The failure of the Mueller report to find clear evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians makes the New York Times stories about collusion look incorrect and poorly reported.  One of the main problems is the use of anonymous sources.  It looks like NYT reporters have either been making up their stories or their sources have been lying to them.  In any case, the NYT has embarrassed itself and soiled its reputation.  It has proved Trump’s claims of “fake news” to be true.  This is a shame because the NYT in the past has been an excellent newspaper.

The NYT, like the rest of the Democratic, liberal establishment has been unable to accept Hillary Clinton’s loss in the last election.  The Democrats and the NYT took up the cry of “collusion” between Trump and the Russians as a means of removing Trump from office.  As time went on, however, it became less and less likely that they would be able to do so.  Trump became too firmly established in office, and concrete evidence of collusion failed to appear.  The Democrats turned from trying to change the election results to trying to impeach Trump.

The Democrats had a handful of accusations that they touted continuously, such as the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya, and the Steele dossier on Trump’s activities in Russia.  I don’t see that anything illegal happened at the Trump Tower meeting.  If the Russians had claimed that Hillary was spying for them, wouldn’t the Trump campaign have been justified in finding out if there was anything to those claims?  Do the Democrats and the NYT believe that Hillary is above reproach and that and to suspect her any wrongdoing is treason?  The NYT and the Democrats are guilty of such blind devotion to Hillary that they cannot see the world as it is.

The Democrats have betrayed the US by spending all of their time trying to invalidate the last election.  The real problem is that Trump is a bad President, most recently illustrated by his firing of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and naming of Stephen Moore and Herman Cain to the Fed.  He can’t keep competent people in his administration and surrounds himself with ideological idiots.  If they were responsible, the Democrats should be trying to keep the US from running off the rails, rather than just throwing up roadblocks to governing and making ad hominem attacks on Trump.

They need to focus less on ideological purity and more on getting things done.  For example, on the border, they need to focus on what to do about a genuine influx of refugees on the border, rather than on the insensitive handling of a few immigrant children.  A slew of House committee meetings on whether Trump colluded with the Russians will not help govern America.  They will just consume the time of the House and the Administration.  The House and the Senate should try to pass some bipartisan laws reigning in the President.  The huge budget deficit and national debt should be something that some Republicans are interested in, perhaps getting enough Republicans to support a bill passed by the House, hopefully avoiding another government shutdown.  It will be hard, but Sen. McConnell appears to be getting fed up with Trump and may be willing to challenge him on something dear to the Republicans’ hearts, like fiscal responsibility.  They could try to force Trump to name permanent Cabinet secretaries, perhaps by cutting off the salary of any person who has been “acting” in a position that require Congressional approval for more than a year, not the whole agency, just the official, unless perhaps he is granted a Congressional waiver in cases of hardship.

There are lots of things that need to be done.  The Democrats should let Trump have immigration as his issue, and focus on other, more important things, like the deficit, healthcare, or Income inequality.  Forget the Green New Deal for now and focus on smaller, more achievable goals.  In the meantime, try to maintain good relations with our traditional allies, despites Trump’s insulting rhetoric toward them, try to keep the economy on a sound basis, try to prevent the social safety net from being completely destroyed, and just try to keep America running in a reasonable way.  If the Democrats were patriots, they would take on the job of getting the country through this trying time of the Trump Administration in the least damaging way possible.  Instead, every Democratic leader in Congress seems to be grandstanding by running for President.  What about doing the job at hand?