President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, according to several American diplomats familiar with the plan, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods.
The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain. In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.
Mr. Trump, by contrast, has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20 with a mission of dismantling many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements. “Political” ambassadors, many of them major donors who are nominated by virtue of close ties with the president, almost always leave at the end of his term; ambassadors who are career diplomats often remain in their posts.
Re NYT story: Trump won Nov. 8. Political ambassadors have known for 2 months they'd have to vacate. Absurd to have published this nonsense.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) January 6, 2017
Indeed, indeed. But Trump is noting if not Simon Legree with bad hair and a Cheeto complexion.
In Costa Rica, Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney is hunting for a house or an apartment as his family — which includes four school-age children and his wife, who has been battling breast cancer — struggles to figure out how to avoid a move back to the United States with five months left in the school year, according to the diplomats.
In the Czech Republic, they said, Ambassador Andrew H. Schapiro is seeking housing in Prague as well as lobbying his children’s Chicago-based school to break with policy and accept them back midyear. In Brussels and Geneva, Denise Bauer, the United States ambassador to Belgium, and Pamela Hamamoto, the permanent representative to the United Nations, are both trying to find a way to keep daughters from having to move just months before their high school graduation.
Full disclosure: I went to ten different schools in twelve years even though I spent my last three years in the same school. I know about changing schools. I know about being the new kid in school twice in the same school year. But screw these guys. Life is tough for a lot of people.
The subtext here is that the incoming administration should put its agenda on hold and provide five months of government funded tourism to political appointees of the previous administration while they undercut the new administration. That’s great work if you can get it, but I find in hard to feel a lot of sympathy for super-rich liberal Democrats who could, if they wished, remain on station out of their own funds and let their kids complete school. Hell, Schapiro could even send his kids to public school and then no “lobbying” would be necessary.
W. Robert Pearson, a former ambassador to Turkey and a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the rule was “quite extraordinary,” adding that it could undermine American interests and signal a hasty change in direction that exacerbates jitters among allies about their relationships with the new administration.
With the world already primed to be worrying about such an abrupt change, “this is just a very concrete signal that it is going to happen,” Mr. Pearson said.
I think this is a good thing. Both symbolically and in practice. Trump is more likely than not going to change a lot about our diplomacy. It is a disservice to the world to think it is business as usual if that is not the plan.