The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Diplomats & Secretaries

Rich Galen

Monday February 4, 2013


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From Rabat, Morocco

  • I am in Morocco with Mullpal Peter Fenn as a bipartisan team to meet with and help train young people in and out of the Moroccan government on communication strategies.

  • The trip is sponsored by Legacy International through a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

  • I am not going to make you read 750 words about Morocco, but I wanted you to know why I am not grading the Superbowl ads: Morocco is five hours ahead of Washington, DC so as I begin typing this, it is 11:30 PM and the Superbowl is about to start in New Orleans.

  • The Superbowl was mentioned exactly zero times today here in Northwest Africa and it is not on local TV so I am watching a black-and-white Egyptian movie - in Arabic, which I don't speak - to provide background music.

  • That's after I watched the YouTube clip of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby singing "The Road to Morocco" only because it continues to make me laugh.

  • Speaking of the State Department, John Kerry, was sworn in the other day as the 68th Secretary of State replacing #67, Hillary Clinton.

  • He got off to a fast start by bragging to the Boston Globe that President Obama had called him a week before Susan Rice took herself out of contention.

  • According to Reuters, Kerry said:
    "He called me, actually a week before Susan got out of the thing. He called me and said, 'You're my choice. I want you to do this.' He asked me to keep it quiet. I did. I sat on it."

  • Later, Kerry tried to unsit on it by explaining:
    "To clarify, through many private conversations over a long and busy period for everyone, I knew that the President was interested in the possibility of my serving as Secretary of State but the President did not formally offer me the job until later in December."

  • Which reminds me of a story, that I think I've shared with you before, but fits here.

  • Way back in 2004, the very same Department of State decided to invent the idea of having "citizen diplomats" - civilians who would travel abroad with a specific role for a brief period of time.

  • They decided to test the theory with me as the CitDip.

  • I was sent to France and Italy to talk to columnists and academics about what the U.S. was attempting to accomplish in Iraq from whence I had recently returned after a six-month visit.

  • I went and I met and I returned to Our Nation's Capitol with neither my, nor the nation's, reputation too badly damaged.

  • The Undersecretary commemorated the activity with a plaque that she presented in the Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department during a reception recognizing the work a bunch of people had done.

  • Because there were to be more awards than the Daytime Emmys, no one got to make an acceptance speech.

  • You are in luck. I remember the speech I had prepared and - keeping John Kerry in mind - I reproduce it in its entirety here:
    "We are in a reception room named for arguably our first Citizen Diplomat, Ben Franklin. I am the most recent Citizen Diplomat,which tells us one thing:

    "Darwin was wrong."

  • Maybe he couldn't decide, or maybe he couldn't persuade, but with the announcements that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will both be leaving, we now know who will not be in President Obama's second term Cabinet, but not who will be replacing them.

  • It would seem that, again borrowing from our friends Will Shakespeare and McBeth, that when it comes to Cabinet-level changes, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly."

  • We are now awaiting the nomination of at least two and the confirmation of at least three Cabinet Secretaries - Chuck Hagel has been nominated for Defense and is allowing the dust to settle after his confirmation hearing last week.

  • Changes at the top of a Department almost always result in changes down the org chart: Deputy Secretary, Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Subordinate Junior Associate Secretaries and who knows what-all boxes have to be filled.

  • It does neither the President nor the nation much good to be reshuffling the deck chairs on the Ship of State perhaps a month into his second term.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Bob and Bing sing "The Road to Morocco," Reuters writes about John Kerry and the State Department celebrates Ben Franklin.

    Also a Mullphoto of me with Peter Fenn at the Roman Ruins in Rabat.

    -- END --

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