On January 26, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Antony John Blinken, of New York, in a 78-22 vote to be Secretary of State. He will assume office as the 71st Secretary of State.
The 78 Senators who voted for confirmation includes Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 elections. The 22 Senators who voted against the Blinken confirmation includes seven who voted to overturn the 2020 election results after the mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6. This country has a short memory. We think that all reporting that includes these senators should always append an asterisk for the repugnant roles they took before and after that mob attack.
In a 15-3 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the nomination of Tony Blinken on January 25 to be the next secretary of state. It looks like Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted no on this nomination. Insurrectionist Senator Ted Cruz of Texas also voted no.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the Blinken nomination mid-day tomorrow, January 26. Foggy Bottom may see the 71st Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom by afternoon.
–Update below on State/M
The 70th Secretary of State left Foggy Bottom for good before the presidential swearing-in of January 20. Finally. A short clip here from CNN correspondent Kylie Atwood shows the now former secretary of state leaving through the empty halls of HST, apparently “to a small round of applause from political appointees.” Whatever. We could see Foggy Bottom’s smoke of relief from our house.
We should note that Rex Tillerson got a polite goodbye when he left in 2018 (see Foggy Bottom Bids Goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson).
Soon after the now former secretary’s exit, the ‘ethos for some but not for others’ wall decors also came tumbling down. The new State Department spokesperson Ned Price told the AP’s Matt Lee, “We are confident that our colleagues do not need a reminder of the values we share.“
Excuse me, who inherited the swagger swags?
Also on January 20, President Biden announced the acting agency leadership across the Biden-Harris administration pending confirmation of permanent leadership by the U.S. Senate. For the State Department, the Acting Secretary of State is Ambassador Daniel Smith, one of the few senior career officials at the agency with the personal rank of Career Ambassador. Until his appointment to the acting position, he was the Director of the Foreign Service Institute. Prior to that, he was Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research from 2013 to 2018 and was Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic from 2010 to 2013.
Traditionally, the highest ranking career official, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) is appointed as Acting Secretary of State pending confirmation of the new secretary of state. This would have been David Hale, a career FSO (also with personal rank of Career Ambassador) who has been on that job since September 2018. That’s not the case this time. It is, of course, the administration’s prerogative who to appoint in an acting capacity.
We’ve seen one reporting that attributes the Hale skip over to the statements he made in December following the reported COVID-19 diagnosis of Pompeo’s wife. At that time, the State Department also “slammed the leak of Susan Pompeo’s diagnosis” according to Fox News. The person who spoke for the State Department and blamed his colleagues for “the persistent culture of leaks” was not the spokesperson. Should be interesting to read the oral history related to this at some point.
Given that all but two of the under secretary and assistant secretary positions in the State Department were filled with political appointees, January 20 also came with the departure of the top functional and bureau officials in Foggy Bottom. The only two positions encumbered by Senate-confirmed career officials were U/Secretary for Political Affairs (David Hale) and the Director General of the Foreign Service (Carol Perez). As best we could tell, Hale is still U/Secretary for Political Affairs. DGHR, however, is now encumbered by Ambassador Kenneth Merten as the bureau’s senior official according to state.gov. Update 1/21 11:32 am: Carol Perez is listed as senior official for the U/Secretary for Management (this also skips the Deputy M).
All regional bureaus under the U/Secretary for Political Affairs are currently headed by career officials designated as “senior official” or “senior bureau official.” The same goes for all functional bureaus. Overseas, it looks like all political ambassadors have stepped down, except for a few who are non-FS but are in the Civil Service. The US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan, a former Deputy Secretary of State appears to have remained at post as of this writing. When this happens during the transition, it is typically with the approval of the new administration.
President Biden has previously announced the nomination of the following senior officials:
Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman as Deputy Secretary of State
Brian P. McKeon as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Dr. Bonnie Jenkins as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs
Ambassador Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Uzra Zeya as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Unless we’ve missed the announcement, the nominees for the following positions are still forthcoming:
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Under Secretary of State for Management
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
On January 19, Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be the 71st Secretary of State appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing.
Excerpt from his prepared statement (PDF):
If confirmed, three priorities will guide my time as Secretary.
First, I will work with you to reinvigorate the Department by investing in its greatest asset: the foreign service officers, civil servants, and locally employed staff who animate American diplomacy around the world.
I know from firsthand experience their passion, energy, and courage. Often far from home and away from loved ones, sometimes in dangerous conditions exacerbated by the global pandemic – they deserve our full support. If I am confirmed as Secretary, they will have it.
I am committed to advancing our security and prosperity by building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity. Recruiting, retaining, and promoting officers with the skills to contend with 21st Century challenges and who look like the country we represent. Sparing no effort to ensure their safety and well-being. Demanding accountability – starting with the Secretary – for building a more diverse, inclusive and non-partisan workplace.
Second, working across government and with partners around the world, we will revitalize American diplomacy to take on the most pressing challenges of our time.
We’ll show up again, day-in, day-out whenever and wherever the safety and well-being of Americans is at stake. We’ll engage the world not as it was, but as it is. A world of rising nationalism, receding democracy, growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, mounting threats to a stable and open international system, and a technological revolution that is reshaping every aspect of our lives, especially in cyberspace.
For all that has changed, some things remain constant.
American leadership still matters.
The reality is that the world doesn’t organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we don’t lead, then one of two things happen: either some other country tries to take our place, but probably not in a way that advances our interests or values. Or no one does, and then you get chaos. Either way, that does not serve the American people
Humility and confidence should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin.
Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad. And humility because most of the world’s problems are not about us, even as they affect us. Not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone – even one as powerful as the U.S.
But we’ll also act with confidence that America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good.
Guided by those principles, we can overcome the COVID crisis – the greatest shared challenge since World War II.
We can outcompete China – and remind the world that a government of the people, by the people, can deliver for its people.
We can take on the existential threat posed by climate change.
We can revitalize our core alliances – force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights.
And in everything we do around the world, we can and we must ensure that our foreign policy delivers for American working families here at home.
Let me conclude with a word about this institution, whose resilience and determination was on full display in the aftermath of senseless and searing violence in these halls. Both the President-elect and I believe we must restore Congress’s traditional role as a partner in our foreign policy making.
In recent years, across administrations of both parties, Congress’s voice in foreign policy has been diluted and diminished.
That doesn’t make the executive branch stronger – it makes our country weaker.
President-elect Biden believes – and I share his conviction – that no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. You are the representatives of the American people. You provide that advice and consent. We can only tackle the most urgent problems our country faces if we work together, and I am dedicated to doing that.
If confirmed, I will work as a partner to each of you on behalf of all Americans.
Last week, the outgoing secretary of state with just days left in his tenure tweeted to the Nobel Prize with a suggestive photograph that his boss get the award. Oh, yes, so very sad and embarrassing indeed.
We did not tweet back, we subtweeted. Twitter flagged it in a nanosecond for “violating” its rules against “abuse and harassment.” Twitter did not say which part they considered offensive.
Sure @NobelPrize is really going to give one to a twice impeached president (impeached on December 18, 2019 and January 13, 2021)
who incited a mob (see text of trump speech inciting a mob)
that could have decapitated our legislative branch (“Yesterday they could have blown the building up, they could have killed us all, they could have destroyed the government”
hang mike pence, (see video of mob screaming “Hang Mike Pence“)
and put you first in line of succession (see line of succession)
#shamelessskunk (because the word “worst” is not enough for the occasion)
Oh, dear. We get the feeling that Twitter was really offended by the words “shameless” and “skunk” unless it was offended by the repetition of facts. The two words put together seemed appropriate for a secretary of state whose tenure is an insult to the very old gal in Foggy Bottom. Yes, the same secretary of state whose upside down dictionary says swagger means humility.
Anyway, having allowed the soon to be former president to run amok on Twitter during his campaign and his entire tenure in office, the social media platform finally decided to lock him out of his account on his way out the door. And to show its great effort of cleaning up the barn after it has been filled with sh*t this past several years, Twitter had to show your blogger that a tweet blasted into its public sphere is now considered “abuse and harassment”. Who would consider “shameless skunk” as fighting words, or as a threat or words that constitute incitement? Obviously, Twitter did and locked us out of our account.
What else might they consider unacceptable words in the Twitter universe? “His Rotundity?” How about “most fervid lapdog?” “his blundering, maladroit, offensive self?” “selfishness at the expense of the national interest isn’t the mark of an honorable diplomat or a patriot“? No? Well, give it time or maybe its algorithm will learn fast.
On the bright side — at least a social media company could not charge us as “a malicious and seditious person, and of a depraved mind and a wicked and diabolical disposition” as the government did with Matthew Lyon (1749–1822) when the then representative from Vermont was charge under the Sedition Act of 1798. Lyon was imprisoned under the Act after accusing President John Adams of having “an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp.” Imagine that.
Of course, Twitter is a corporation with its own rules. No doubt locking up the chief inciter’s account has limited the dissemination of the big lie and helped avoid further incitement. But we need to decide as a society if we want big tech to be the arbiter of what is acceptable language in the public sphere. It could decide tomorrow that “#badactor” or “#absolutelydisgraceful” are also harassing and inciting words and could block anyone who tweets them. And by the way, if “skunk” is off limits, what other animals are also off limits? If somebody eats all the shrimp at an official reception, can you say, “oh, you shameless flamingo,” or would that be considered harassment, too?
Now, you got us wondering how long it would take to get locked out for tweeting dangerous words like #shamelessgangofelks, #hordeofhamsters, #troopofapes, #conspiracyoflemurs, and perhaps the most dangerous one out there, #shamelessmurderofcrows.
In any case, we’ve been asked to remove our tweet before they would give us back access to our account. Since we are a guest on its platform, we have complied but we will from here on also limit our presence on Twitter until they can figure out what are they doing and how exactly are they cleaning up their house. We are not deleting the account at this time as we have multiple links to the blog that would leave orphan spaces here. But we can choose not to use it as a regular stop. You can still reach us through our contact page here.
We must admit that we’ve been wondering for awhile now how much of our news and social media diet actually contributed to the deleterious effects on our mental health, our family members, friends, or folks in our communities. Not being on Twitter these last few days wasn’t bad; it brought us some clarity. Instead of scrolling and refreshing the screen, we took long walks, did some bird watching and worked in the garden. In a few months, the wildflowers will be in bloom. Like Thoreau said, all good things are wild and free. True, out there in the open fields. On Twitter, in a few months, there will be new trends to replace the old trends that will be just as wild. Wild but not really free.
We are relieved that a new day is nearly here. We pray for a safe and successful presidential inauguration on January 20. Still, we could not shake our despondence away. Truth to tell, your blogger is mentally and emotionally exhausted. Blogging may be sporadic for awhile until we can figure out if this old girl still has fire for the next ride.
The scoop from @Politico: @WendySherman for Deputy Secretary of State, Toria Nuland for Under Secretary for Political Affiars, Jon Finer for Deputy Nat'l Security Advisor, and @A_Sloat for NSC Sr Director for Europe. #StateDept https://t.co/z6w13MiCZp
— Donald Camp (@donacamp) January 5, 2021
.@wendyrsherman, Toria Nuland, @jonfiner, Kurt Campbell, @A_Sloat, @brett_mcgurk – not household names perhaps but reason for all of us to sleep better at night + strong signals to Russia Iran Asia DPRK Middle East Europehttps://t.co/qDehSRsnq6 via @michaelcrowley @SangerNYT
— Ben Chang (@whoisbenchang) January 6, 2021
We wished we could say that we were shocked with the insurrection that happened at the U.S. capital city today. Given the last four years of the president and his enablers living in world based in an alternate reality, this was the unavoidable conclusion. It is not a coincidence that a U.S. president who gave a speech about the American carnage during his inauguration now ends his administration this way. We kept hearing from TV people that they have never seen anything like this before. That’s true but if you have lived overseas in developing countries, you have seen something like this happened before, others have seen this many times before. It almost always never ends well for the country.
We as a country cannot let this stand. If there are no consequences for these actions, this is bound to happen again. How easy was it again for the mob to breach the U.S. capitol? How long did it take for reinforcement to come? Four hours? What’s going to happen next time, take lawmakers hostages so they cannot continue with the election certification? For the elected officials who sheltered in place today inside the capitol, this guy sure learned his lesson! Where is your red line?
Below, the world watched with shock and disbelief.
LIVE: Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol https://t.co/mK6Wl9oxP5
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 6, 2021
Trump's legacy in one single image.
— Alexandre Krauss (@AlexandreKrausz) January 6, 2021
Trump und seine Unterstützer sollten endlich die Entscheidung der amerikanischen Wähler*Innen akzeptieren und aufhören, die Demokratie mit Füßen zu treten. (2)
— Heiko Maas 🇪🇺 (@HeikoMaas) January 6, 2021
FM #Schallenberg: „Deeply disturbed by the assault on #democracy that is happening right now in #WashingtonDC. The #Capitol is a symbol of American democracy and it is unacceptable to have it utterly disrespected by such violence, hatred and chaos.“
— MFA Austria (@MFA_Austria) January 6, 2021
Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 6, 2021
I am following with concern the news that are coming from Capitol Hill in Washington. I trust in the strength of America's democracy.
The new Presidency of @JoeBiden will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people.
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) January 6, 2021
Seguo con grande preoccupazione quanto sta accadendo a #Washington. La violenza è incompatibile con l’esercizio dei diritti politici e delle libertà democratiche. Confido nella solidità e nella forza delle Istituzioni degli Stati Uniti. #CapitolHill
— Giuseppe Conte (@GiuseppeConteIT) January 6, 2021
Les violences contre les institutions américaines sont une atteinte grave contre la démocratie. Je les condamne. La volonté et le vote du peuple américain doivent etre respectés.
— Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) January 6, 2021
In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege.
This is an unseen assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law.
This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) January 6, 2021
As Chairperson of the @OSCE I express the deepest concern at developments in Washington DC. I call for peaceful return to order and respect for the democratic process. The outcome of a democratic election, as well as constitutional principles must be respected. #OSCE2021SWE
— Ann Linde (@AnnLinde) January 6, 2021
Shocking scenes in Washington, D.C. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) January 6, 2021
Concerning scenes in Washington, D.C. I’m confident American democracy will overcome this challenge. The rule of law & democratic procedures need to be restored as soon as possible. This is important not only for the U.S., but for Ukraine and the entire democratic world as well.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) January 6, 2021
Peaceful transition of power is a sign of mature #democracy which is 🇺🇸. #RuleofLaw is not the rule of the street. We strongly believe in the supremacy of democratic values in our allied country. #Washington
— Gitanas Nausėda (@GitanasNauseda) January 6, 2021
Very worrying scenes from #WashingtoDC. I have full confidence in the rule of law and democratic process in the US
— Urmas Reinsalu (@UrmasReinsalu) January 6, 2021
Rechazamos los actos de violencia presentados el día de hoy durante el acto de conteo del voto del colegio electoral en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos y manifiesto mi solidaridad y respaldo a los honorables miembros del Congreso y a todas las instituciones.
— Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) January 6, 2021
Shocking & deeply sad scenes in Washington DC – we must call this out for what it is: a deliberate assault on Democracy by a sitting President & his supporters, attempting to overturn a free & fair election! The world is watching!
We hope for restoration of calm. pic.twitter.com/1OdQYEB35K
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) January 6, 2021
The situation in #WashingtonDC is deeply disturbing and alarming, and an unacceptable attack on democracy. President Trump has a particular responsibility to ensure that the situation comes under control – FM #EriksenSoreide pic.twitter.com/UPWwUDrQ3d
— Norway MFA (@NorwayMFA) January 6, 2021
Following with great concern the events in #WashingtonDC.
Upholding democratic institutions and peaceful transition of power is of utmost importance.
— Gordan Grlić Radman (@grlicradman) January 6, 2021
Canada is deeply shocked by the situation in Washington DC. The peaceful transition of power is fundamental to democracy – it must continue and it will.
We are following developments closely and our thoughts are with the American people.
— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@FP_Champagne) January 6, 2021
Very distressing scenes at the US Congress. We condemn these acts of violence and look forward to a peaceful transfer of Government to the newly elected administration in the great American democratic tradition.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 6, 2021