Guy Farmer: American diplomats on the hot seat

As a retired U.S. foreign service officer, I watched with great interest last week as career diplomats testified on Capitol Hill in the House’s inquiry into whether to impeach President Trump and remove him from office. Those career diplomats are uncomfortable in the public spotlight and I sympathize with them when they’re on the political hot seat, unless they’re never-Trumpers, as a few of them are.

First, let’s understand a few basic facts about ambassadors, who are the personal representatives of the president of the United States in foreign countries. They serve at the pleasure of the president, whether they are career diplomats or political appointees, and can be removed for any reason, or no reason at all. If President Trump doesn’t think an ambassador is supporting and defending his policies, he can fire the ambassador on the spot, as he did with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Writing in The Hill, two retired senior career diplomats, Ambassadors Marc Grossman and Ronald Neumann, said all American diplomats take an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against its enemies, domestic and foreign.” That’s the oath I took when I joined the foreign service in late 1967 before supporting and defending the policies of presidents ranging from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.

Grossman and Neumann made an important point when they wrote that “diplomacy is a profession that is vital to the promotion and protection of America’s interests, values and citizens around the globe,” adding that “America needs diplomats who represent the values, diversity and strength of the United States.” So far, so good.

When I joined the foreign service a “diversity” movement was underway, but not a movement involving gender or ethnic identity. Instead, it was a push for geographical diversity because at that time most FSOs were white males who had graduated from Ivy League universities. Although I was a white male, I was an oddity because I was an adopted Nevadan who had graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle, of all places.

I believe I was the second Nevadan to join the foreign service, preceded only by former Reno journalist Bob Mount, the son of then-Democratic Chairman Keith Mount, who served in the administration of Gov. Grant Sawyer in the 1960s, as I did.

Back to the career diplomats who are testifying on Capitol Hill, as I’ve noted, I think it’s important to distinguish between those who are truly nonpolitical and some 1,000 State Department employees, including hundreds of FSOs, who signed letters and petitions opposing President Trump and his policies shortly after he took office in January 2017. Those who signed letters and petitions are part of “the resistance” inside the sprawling State Department.

As far as I’m concerned, those never-Trumpers should have been summarily fired as were the air traffic controllers who defied President Reagan. Their job isn’t to play politics inside the Washington swamp; it’s to carry out the president’s policies, even when they disagree with them. So I’d like to know whether Yovanovitch and any of her colleagues signed those anti-Trump letters and petitions. And if they did, they don’t deserve to be admired for their alleged “courage” because they’re part of a movement to remove the president from office.

Having worked at the State Department for several months during the first Gulf War, my educated guess is that at least 80 percent of department employees are registered Democrats who should know that the best way to get rid of President Trump is to defeat him at the polls next November. I’d be happy to see that happen.

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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