The way the media is discussing the choice facing President-Elect Trump over his State Department nominee, you would think it’s a choice about stocking-stuffers. Should I give Mitt the slide whistle, the chocolate truffle, or the lump of coal?
The answer is: none of the above. And as Kellyann Conway noted on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Trump loyalists are wondering why Mitt Romney thinks he deserves to hang his stocking on our mantle to begin with.
Secretary of State is one of three key national security positions, but even more than the National Security advisor or the Secretary of Defense, this is the person who becomes America’s face and voice to seven billion people around the planet. This is the person who will personify American values, who will hold high the flag of freedom.
And most important of all, this is the person who will ensure that President Trump’s agenda actually gets carried out by an unruly, often recalcitrant bureaucracy at the Department of State, filled with partisan Democrats who have burrowed their way into career track jobs to avoid getting automatically axed come the inauguration.
Mitt Romney may be willing to recant his harsh attacks on Donald Trump’s character during the campaign, and Mr. Trump may be willing to forgive him. But the real issue – and it applies to any potential nominee – is this: can he or she ascend to the seventh floor and tame the bureaucracy?
After President Bush was elected to a second term in November 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell called a town meeting of his employees. “We live in a democracy,” he said. “As Americans, we have to respect the results of elections.” Bush had received the most votes of any president in U.S. history. Everyone in this building was constitutionally obligated to serve him, he said.
As I recounted in my 2008 book, Shadow Warriors, one of Powell’s subordinates returned to her office suite, shut the door, and held a mini town meeting of her own. After indignantly recounting Powell’s remarks to her assembled staff, she commented: “Well, Senator Kerry receive the second highest number of votes of any presidential candidate in history. If just one state had gone differently, Sen. Kerry would be President Kerry today.”
The employees of her regional bureau owed no allegiance to the president of the United States, especially not to policies they knew were wrong, she told them. If it was legal, and it would slow down the Bush juggernaut, they should do it.
I fully expect the next Secretary of State will face the same type of open insubordination from political hold-overs, many of whom weathered eight years of George W. Bush. They will use every ruse to undermine President Trump’s policies, especially where those policies conflict with their elitist, globalist agenda – which will be just about everywhere.
Want to slash the $1 billion funding to promote “climate change” initiatives? All of a sudden, that money will get buried in another budget line. Want to stop spending U.S. taxpayer dollars to promote an LGBT lifestyle overseas? The next secretary will get blank stares when he or she gives such an order to the bureaucrats.
And these are relatively small matters. What about moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, a policy Congress has made law and Donald Trump promoted during the campaign? I guarantee you, the shadow warriors at State will find legal excuses where none exist, and magnify the objections of regional partners who never set foot in Israel anyway.
The State Department has many talented, career professionals, who understand that their job is to promote the policies of the United States of America as defined by the President and his Secretary of State. But it also has many secret and not-so-secret partisans, who believe their duty is to act as so many Edward Snowden’s inside the belly of the beast, leaking to the media and to President Trump’s political enemies.
The next Secretary of State cannot close his eyes to this fact. He must tame the bureaucracy and, like the Swedes, not fear to send those he cannot fire to the “elephant’s churchyard” in the basement.
That’s what happened to Greg Hicks, the deputy chief of mission under Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, after Hicks had the temerity to testify before Congress that his superiors back in Washington had denied scores of requests for additional security in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The media will scream, and Senator Chuck Schumer will join them, calling the Secretary a vicious partisan, vindictive, or – heavens! – unfair. We need a Secretary of State who will not flinch at the slings and arrows of the president’s political adversaries, who can sweep them away with skill, good humor, and firm resolve.
Do you see Mitt Romney doing that?
Timmerman is a Trump supporter and author of many books. The latest is Deception: The Making of the YouTube Video Hillary and Obama Blamed for Benghazi).