Instead of hiring dozens of undersecretaries of state or defense or commerce or energy preparing reports to build consensus on the issues they work, President Donald Trump prefers a bare-bones staff, run largely from the White House, with himself as chief decision-maker.
Diplomats are turning in increasing numbers to the mainstream media to make the case for a plan closer to that of President barack Obama.
A piece over the weekend in The Washington Post headlined, “A top U.S. diplomat in Latin America leads in protest, swelling an exodus,” focused on the departure of Ambassador to Panama John Feeley.
Feeley had worked as a diplomat for almost 30 years “under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” the Post reported. But “in the last year, he realized he was working for a president whose policies and tone he could no longer promote or even explain.”
Trump is in the process of cleaning house among Latin American diplomats. Trump replaced the ambassador to Guatemala for working against American business interests in the country on behalf of environmental extremists.
Thomas Shannon, the No. 3 man at State and the architect of the Obama policy to abandon Cold War battlegrounds for the region’s bigger fish, also stepped down, as did William Brownfield, former ambassador to Columbia, Venezuela and Chile, and his wife, Kristie Kenney, a former ambassador to Ecuador.
He forced out Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, due to policy differences. Before becoming ambassador to Mexico in 2016, Jacobson spearheaded the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba in 2014.
Also that year, she testified falsely to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that legislation to revoke visas and freeze bank accounts of officials of the Venezuelan government for human rights violations was not supported by the country’s political opposition.
“That was blatantly untrue, but it was the position the Obama administration wanted to peddle at the time,” Mauricio Claver-Carone wrote in 2015. “Ultimately, Jacobson was forced to correct the record after being contradicted by the Venezuelan opposition leaders themselves.”
But the Post reports that no self-respecting diplomat is willing to work – or continue to work – for the Trump administration.
It’s not that each administration appoints most, if not all, its own ambassadors. It’s not that those who worked with Obama might have policy differences. It’s that Trump is unfit for office, and the people who know best about fitness for office are abandoning him in droves.
“’My decision was based on a sense of my values as a citizen and a representative of broader American values,” Feeley told the Post. “The whole idea of rules-based, respectful conduct of diplomatic relations is pretty much what I spent my whole career doing. And we don’t do that now. We’ve walked off the field. Not only are we walking off the field, we’re taking the ball and throwing up a middle finger.’”
The Post reported that Feeley’s “breaking point” came in August “when Trump failed to decisively condemn the neo-Nazis” at the Charlottesville riots.
“’I have spoken about those struggles for the last 25, 30 years of my life,’” Feeley said. “’I represented a country I knew had overcome significant structural racism. I saw his reaction as a complete negation of the positive trajectory.”