Secretary Rex Tillerson to Foggy Bottom: Core Principles to Adopt – Accountability, Honesty, Respect

Posted: 6:30 pm PT
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A day after he was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State, Secretary Tillerson walked into Foggy Bottom with his wife, Renda, and gave his welcome remarks to an anxious group of employees in DC and worldwide. He started his talk with a spark of humor saying, “We apologize for being late. It seemed that this year’s prayer breakfast, people felt the need to pray a little longer.” Except for one exception, Secretary Tillerson did not make any direct reference to the widely reported dissent  from our diplomats but did say, “Each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs, but we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team.”  He declared that “Change for the sake of change can be counterproductive, and that will never be my approach.” He went on to cite a few core principles that he asked to adopt in  Foggy Bottom: accountability, honesty, and respect.  Secretary Tillerson said, “What I ask of you and what I demand of myself – I will embrace accountability, honesty, and respect no less than anyone.”

In possible reference to the leaked Dissent Channel memo, he said, “Let us extend respect to each other, especially when we may disagree.” The full transcript of his remarks is here.

The reception appears warm and Secretary Tillerson’s speech was both reassuring and encouraging.

One Foggy Bottom nightingale gave the welcome remarks an A+.

An unnamed foreign service officer attending the event described Tillerson’s remarks to VOA as sincerely communicating “a genuine concern for the well-being of all members of the State Department team.”

People appreciate his stop at the Memorial Wall where 248 individuals are memorialized for heroic service and for perishing in the line of duty.

Secretary Tillerson has no prior government service but some folks we know liked what they’ve seen and heard so far.  We’re guessing that all are hopeful that the new secretary of state remain interested and engaged in the building and its people — contrary to some of his predecessors — oops … did we say that out loud?!

Good luck Foggy Bottom with your new captain, keep the four leaf clover in your pocket.

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Tom Countryman’s Farewell: A Diplomat’s Love Letter to America

Posted: 2:27  am ET
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Among the senior officials who were asked to leave the State Department this past week was career diplomat Tom Countryman. Below is the touching and inspiring farewell remarks he delivered (as prepared) at his retirement ceremony.


Thomas Countryman |

January 31, 2017

 

Thank You! When I entered the State Department, I never intended to rise high enough to merit a retirement ceremony.  And when it occurred to me that I had, I pictured instead an off-campus bacchanalia.  But now we’re here, and it is altogether fitting and proper, and I thank you.

Some of you have asked if recent events have left me disgruntled.  The answer is No; I am probably the most gruntled person in the room.

When Ambassador Robert Pelletreau retired 20 years ago, he said “The State Department doesn’t owe me anything.  It has given me everything”.  It is the same for me.  In my very first tour, the Department gave me more than I could ask for in a lifetime.  It sent me to Belgrade, where in 1984 I met my wife, Dubravka Trklja, the greatest thing ever to happen to me.  She reminds me often that she could have had a better husband, but I suspect she feels what I feel so strongly: that I could never have had a better friend.  And as a result, I have something else, the only thing for which you should envy me: Stefan and Andrew, the two best sons and the two most remarkable young men anyone could have.

The Department gave me and my family the opportunity to see the world, and not just as tourists.  It allowed me to see the reunification of families divided by the Iron Curtain, and to see Israelis and Palestinians negotiate face to face.  I saw – and contributed a little to – the restoration of democracy in Serbia.  And for the last few years, it’s given me the chance to speak for the United States about a priority shared by eleven successive Presidents: reducing the risk of a nuclear holocaust.

This career gave me a constant resurgence or energy in the form of bright young officers with brilliant careers ahead of them, people like Rafik Mansour, Patrick Connell, Daniela Helfet, Seth Maddox, Lizzie Martin and David Kim.  It allowed me to work for Ambassadors legendary in the Foreign Service (some of them here today), like David Anderson, Dick Miles, Barbara Bodine, Emil Skodon, Patrick Theros, Skip Gnehm, Frank Wisner, Bob Pelletreau, Marc Grossman and Charlie Ries.  From them I learned the four words central to diplomatic success: “High Road, Hard Ball”.  And it gave me the great honor to stand beside exemplary Secretaries of State like Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

The Department gave me the chance to be part of, and to lead, amazing interagency teams at Embassies abroad, in the European Bureau and at the White House.  These were great organizations, but it was only when I spent a year and a half in the PM Bureau, and five years in the ISN Bureau, that I came to fully value the true strength of the Department, a Civil Service cadre every bit as talented as the Foreign Service.  It was perhaps my highest honor to learn from, to guide, and to take credit for the accomplishments of the deepest bench of experts in any agency.

The State Department owes me nothing.  But we still owe America a lot.  We still have a duty – you have a duty – to stay and give your best professional guidance, with loyalty, to the new Administration.  Because a foreign policy without professionals is – by definition – an amateur foreign policy.  You will help to frame and make the choices.  

Because that is WHAT we do.

Our work is little understood by our fellow Americans, a fact that is sometimes exploited for political purpose.  When I have the opportunity to speak to audiences across this amazing land, I explain “We do not have a Department of State – we do not have a foreign policy – because we love foreigners.  We do it because we love Americans”.

We want Americans to prosper, to sell the world’s best food and the world’s best products everywhere in the world.  We want Americans to be protected and safe when they are abroad, whether they are missionaries, tourists, students, businessmen or (for those you have done consular work) the occasional false Messiah.

We want Americans to sleep the sleep of the righteous, knowing that the smallest fraction of their tax dollar goes to ease poverty and reduce injustice.  We want them to know that our consular officers are the first of many lines of defense against those who would come to the US with evil purpose.  We want the families of America’s heroes – our servicemen – to know that their loved ones are not put into danger simply because of a failure to pursue non-military solutions.

And we want Americans to know that the torch borne by the Statue of Liberty is not just a magnet for immigrants, it is a projector, shining the promise of democracy around the world.  The United States is the world’s greatest economic power, the world’s greatest military power, and with your vigilance, it always will be.  But the greatest power we project is hope, the promise that people can establish liberty in their own country without leaving it.

I’ve seen it in the country second dearest to my heart: Serbia.  I saw democracy born in Serbia.  I saw it stolen.  I saw – and played a minor role in – its restoration.   And I know this: that if a generation stands up and insists upon defending the rights of the people, they will succeed.  And if the next generation stands up and resists every corrosive attack on democracy, they will triumph.

If we wall ourselves off from the world, we will extinguish Liberty’s projection, as surely as if, as the Gospel says, we hid our lamp under a bushel basket.  If we do not respect other nations and their citizens, we can not demand respect for our citizens.   If our public statements become indistinguishable from disinformation and propaganda, we will lose our credibility.  If we choose to play our cards that way, we will lose that game to the masters in Moscow.  If our interaction with other countries is only a business transaction, rather than a partnership with Allies and friends, we will lose that game too.  China practically invented transactional diplomacy, and if we choose to play their game, Beijing will run the table.

Business made America great, as it always has been, and business leaders are among our most important partners.  But let’s be clear, despite the similarities.  A dog is not a cat.  Baseball is not football.  And diplomacy is not a business.  Human rights are not a business.  And democracy is, most assuredly, not a business.

Each of us came to this work with our identities – more or less – fully formed, and have preserved our values – with greater or lesser success – against the professional deformation caused by any bureaucracy.  Just for myself, I came here with my identity framed: as a Christian, as an Eagle Scout, as a taxpayer.  These didn’t require me to go into the State Department, but they define my obligations as a citizen: to spend tax dollars wisely; to look out for the best interests of the US and its people; to share the best of America with the world; and to be not only optimistic, but also – to use a word so suddenly fallen from favor – altruistic.

I line up with Steven Pinker.  In his book, “The Better Angels of our Nature”, he describes the ‘escalator of reason’: “…an intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs”.

That is HOW we do it.

“…an intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs”.

That’s the very definition of the work I’ve been privileged to do, that I will pursue now in different clothes, and that I leave to you.

That’s the sermon, and in a moment I will let you go in peace.  First, I want to thank you for so many messages of support and appreciation.  One of you here compared the situation to the scene in Star Wars, when Obi-Wan Kenobi is struck down, and I found that touching.  Another compared it to the scene when Princess Leia strangles Jabba the Hutt, and I found that confusing.   

The most meaningful came from my son Stefan, a future Nobel laureate in physics, who wrote: “I am proud of your decades of service to this country and the world…You gave everything you could for the people of this world in a slow and painful line of work…You have given more than your share…The values you upheld in your career are part of what makes me who I am.”

And that is WHY we do it.

Even if you don’t have your own children, what you do in this building tomorrow can mean another generation will live in a habitable world, can enjoy peace and liberty. If we are firm in our principles, steadfast in our ideals, and tireless in our determination to uphold our oath – to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” – then for many generations, another American will stand in this spot with the same satisfaction and hope I feel today.

I leave you with one last thought, from one of my favorite philosophers.  If you’ve never read him, or not for many years, I urge you to take the time now.   His name is: ….Winnie the Pooh.

And he said:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Thank You and God Bless You!  

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Some clips:

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White House Issues Clean-Up Memo For Trump Ban to Exempt Green Card Holders

Posted: 1:09  am ET
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On February 1, White Counsel Donald F. McGahn II released a memo intended to provide “Authoritative Guidance on Executive Order Entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (Jan. 27, 2017).”

Section 3(c) of the Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (Jan. 27, 2017) suspends for 90 days the entry into the United States of certain aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12). Section 3(e) of the order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of certain foreign nationals from countries that do not provide information needed to adjudicate visas, admissions, or other benefits under the INA.

I understand that there has been reasonable uncertainty about whether those provisions apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States. Accordingly, to remove any confusion, I now clarify that Sections 3(c) and 3(e) do not apply to such individuals. Please immediately convey this interpretive guidance to all individuals responsible for the administration and implementation of the Executive Order.

The EO clearly states  “I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants.”  So the EO drafters had to idea what are green card holders? Or they just want to tame the blowback right now.

Here is Section 3 (c):

(c)  To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on
relevant agencies during the review period described in
subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review
and maximum utilization of available resources for the
screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate
standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign
terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the
INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant
and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from
countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8
U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of
the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United
States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for
90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign
nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty
Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United
Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

Here is Section 3 (e)

(e)  After the 60-day period described in subsection (d)
of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security,
in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to
the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on
a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of
foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling
on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas,
C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3,
and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the
information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this
section until compliance occurs.

The full WH memo is here:

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Senate Confirms Rex Tillerson as the 69th Secretary of State

Posted: 12:23 am ET
Updated: 9:51 am ET
Updated: 12:31 pm ET
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On Wednesday, February 1, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Rex Tillerson as the 69th Secretary of State. Senate Republicans and four Democrats voted 56-43. Later in the afternoon, Secretary Tillerson was sworn in by Vice President Pence. The oath of office ceremony was held at the White House and attended by the President.

The State Department announced that Secretary Tillerson will address State Department employees upon arrival at the State Department on February 2 at 9:30 a.m. in the C Street Lobby.

It looks like the State Department also rolled out the Update 1: A new secretary of state’s Twitter account @RexTillerson_ was rolled out the same day as Secretary Tillerson’s confirmation.  The account says “Joined February 2017” and “Responsive 24/7.”  The account is not verified and has not been confirmed at this time.  The account follows 508 Twitter accounts as of this writing including several embassies, it even responded to tweets from some posts.  The odd thing about the account … it is following the state governors, and state secretaries of state instead of world leaders, and foreign ministers as one would expect. We followed the account last night and this morning, we received a DM that says “Thank you for your message. The United States Secretary of State’s office will be in touch.”  What is even weirder is we haven’t sent it a message. This is probably an automated message for every follower. We’ve asked who is running this account. Will update if we get a response.

Update 2: The account is still up but is now showing no tweets and lost all but 60 followers. The DM sent me no longer shows a Tillerson profile but some unverified breaking news account.

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