The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Political Ambassadors

Rich Galen

Thursday November 21, 2019

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  • We've talked about this before but, given the testimony of Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, it bears looking at again.

  • Before we get into that, let me tell you that I thought Sondland, although not my kind of guy, made the case pretty well that Donald Trump not only knew what was going on with Ukraine but, through his mouthpiece and fixer Rudy Giuliani, was determined to keep the pressure on to get what he wanted: Proving that it was Ukraine and not Russia that was the main bad actor in the 2016 Presidential election and that Joe Biden's son, Hunter, was somehow engaged in unethical behavior as a board member of a large Ukrainian natural gas company.

  • Republicans on the Intel Committee crowed about the fact that Sondland never heard Trump utter the words "quid pro quo" But, Trump apparently did utter the words "Talk to Rudy" which, as the former fixer and current incarcerated felon Michael Cohen made clear, is the way Trump issues orders.

  • Sondland is not my kind of guy. I believe he was just showing off in that cell phone call from a restaurant in Ukraine to the White House, showing he could call the President any time he waned.

  • I have no doubt that Sondland held the phone away from his ear specifically so others at his table could hear that it was Trump on the other end of the call.

  • I have several friends who have served as Ambassadors; some to international organizations like the United Nations Organizations in Geneva, or in what are called "bilateral posts," like Italy. The typical term of office for an Ambassador is three years.

  • A brilliant retired foreign service officer, Don Hamilton, who had the bad luck to sit about ten feet away from me in Iraq told me how this works.

  • "Many countries," he told me, "would much rather have a political than a career Foreign Service Ambassador."

  • A political's best friend might be the President of the United States - or, at a minimum a U.S. Senator. A career's best friend might be the Deputy Chief of the Eastern European Desk at State.

  • If you were the leader of a nation with diplomatic business with the U.S. which type of Ambassador would you want?

  • Most politicals take their roles seriously.

  • A friend was appointed Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris.

  • She took her role very seriously. She studied the issues before she got to her post. She attended (or led) the meetings that she was supposed to and represented the economic goals of President George W. Bush and the people of America with distinction.

  • Not always the case.

  • Another political decided he would come back to the U.S. about this far out from Thanksgiving and return to work sometime after New Years. His masters at the State Department made it clear he would either spend the holidays on post or he could drop by Main State in Washington and sign the letter of resignation they would be happy to type up.

  • Another good thing about political Ambassadors is: You might know one and get to stay at the Ambassador's residence. Italy, France, the U.K. are highly sought invites.

  • During my stay in Iraq, I had occasion to go to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to give a speech to the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

  • I called the political Ambassador to Saudi who was a friend and asked if I could stay with he and his wife for a couple of nights rather than stay in a hotel.

  • He said, "This isn't Paris, it's Saudi Arabia. We don't have a waiting list. You can stay with us for the whole three years."

  • During my short stay, the Ambassador and his wife threw an Easter party at the residence for the staff, their spouses, and their children. That's what Ambassadors do, too. Political or Career.

  • To Ambassador Sondland's credit, he did ignore the Administration's strong desire to forbid anyone in the Executive Branch from participating in the House Intelligence Committee hearings.

  • I don't know that his testimony - as strong as it was - will change any minds, but I'm not sure anything short of Donald Trump suddenly addressing the press corps on the South Lawn in French will do that.

  • In the meantime, we'll continue to listen to and watch and for many of us, worry about the conduct of America's foreign policy.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: An examination - not too favorable - of political Ambassadors and to the Wikipedia entry for Gordon Sondland.

    The Mullfoto is actually two. They are both of dusk outside Mullings central - one using Apple's new photo software and one without. Worth the look.

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