Goodbye Benjamin F. Kerry, a/k/a @Diplomutt — We Hardly Knew Ye!

Posted: 4:40 pm PT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’

 

In November 2013, Secretary Kerry flew to Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who spent two months training the dog. According to the Boston Globe, Ben is named in honor of Ben Franklin, also known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service.” (Also see Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?) Ben, whose Twitter handle says @Diplomutt has 3,131 followers but is not terribly social online. He has only tweeted four six times, and followed only six accounts, all State Department-connected.

Now, he’s off to the beach to watch the sunset. And no goodbye tweets. Sad.

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68 Delivers Farewell and Thanks to Foggy Bottom, See More Goodbyes and Parting Thoughts

Posted: 3:33 pm PT

 

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SFRC Hearing: Rex Tillerson Talks Russia, China, Radical Islam, and American Leadership

Posted: 1:12 am ET

 

Secretary of State Designate Rex Tillerson appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today for his confirmation hearing. He was introduced by the senators from Texas,  John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Former Senator Nunn and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates also appeared to provide brief introductions before the hearing.

We made a word cloud below from Mr. Tillerson’s prepared statement.  The full statement is available here: PDF. Watch the hearing via the SFRC here or via C-SPAN here.

Via WordItOut

Via WordItOut

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U.S. Diplomacy Center Pavilion Opens With @JohnKerry, @HillaryClinton, @madeleine, and Colin Powell

Posted: 5:47 pm PT

 

Secretary of State John Kerry together with former Secretaries of State Madeleine K. Albright, Colin L. Powell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton marked the completion of the U.S. Diplomacy Center Pavilion located at the State Department’s 21st Street Entrance on January 10 with a well-attended reception.

The U.S. Diplomacy Center (@DiplomacyCenter) will be a 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art museum and education center dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy. Visitors will explore the role of diplomacy through interactive exhibits, compelling artifacts, hands-on education programs, and diplomatic simulations.  The Center’s goal is “to demonstrate the ways in which diplomacy matters now and has mattered throughout American history.  Diplomacy and the work of our diplomats in over 250 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions are vital to our nation’s power, image, and ability to advance its interests around the globe.”

The funds used for this project?  The Department of State has a public-private partnership with the Diplomacy Center Foundation (DCF), founded by the late Senator Charles McC. Mathias, Ambassador Stephen Low and others. The costs for the construction of the museum and the fabrication of the exhibits are raised through a private sector capital campaign. The Department of State contributes space, staff and security for the Center. Taxpayers will not be paying for building the USDC; the center makes up less than .003% of the Department of State’s annual budget.

Here is a bit of history on the Center via the Foundation:

Foreign Service Ambassador Stephen Low (1927 — 2010) and Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias, R-MD (1922-2010) formed the Foreign Affairs Museum Council (FAMC), a nonprofit organization, to help build the first facility dedicated to American diplomacy in the United States and to raise funds from the private sector for the project. In 2013 the FAMC Board of Directors changed the name to Diplomacy Center Foundation. […] In 1999, Ambassador Low and Senator Mathias met with Secretary Madeleine K. Albright about their vision for a museum and education center of American diplomacy. Secretary Albright recognized the need and decreed that the museum should be located at the Department of State.

In 2010, Secretary Clinton appointed Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, Ambassador to Portugal, retired, to lead the fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Department. Simultaneously, the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Museum Council was assumed by William C. Harrop, a career Foreign Service Officer who had served as United States Ambassador to five countries. To date, $47.5 million of private sector funds have been raised from corporations, foundation and individuals toward the $55 million needed to build the Center. Under this new Pavilion will be the Founding Ambassadors Concourse where educational conferences, symposia and other USDC events will take place. The Founding Ambassadors initiative is led by Stuart A. Bernstein, Ambassador to Denmark, retired.

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@StateDept Apologizes For Past Discrimination Against #LGBTI Employees/Applicants

Posted: 1:32 pm ET

 

The 68th Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, today, apologized on behalf of the State Department for the discrimination of employees and applicants based on sexual orientation.  Below is his statement:

Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.

On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.

For the historical discrimination that spanned decades, this has been a long time coming. We are pleased to see this public apology. ADST’s Oral History notes that in the 1950s and 60s, “security within the U.S. government, including the State Department, was on high alert for internal risks, particularly Communists and what were considered to be sexual deviants—homosexuals and promiscuous individuals. Investigating homosexuality became a core function of the Department’s Office of Security, which ferreted out more people for homosexuality than for being a Communist.”

In 1950, a subcommittee chaired by Maryland Senator Millard Tydings convened to investigate Joseph McCarthy’s notorious list of “205 known communists.” Tydings worked to discredit McCarthy’s claim, but, in the process, the subcommittee concluded that the State Department was overrun with “sexual perverts,” part of the so-called “Lavender Scare.” 

During the hearings, Nebraska Senator Kenneth Wherry memorably claimed that as many as 3,000 homosexuals were employed at State. By the end of 1950, 600 people had been dismissed from positions at the State Department on morals charges. In 1973 a federal judge ruled that a person’s sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment; two years later, the Civil Service Commission announced that it would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case-by-case basis.

Read more here: Being Gay in the Foreign Service and The “Lavender Scare”: Homosexuals at the State Department

 

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Request For the Formal Resignations of All Chiefs of U.S. Diplomatic Missions Overseas

Posted: 2:33  am ET

 

On November 15, 1944, Robert M. Scotten, a career Foreign Service Officer serving as U.S. minister to the Dominican Republic, submitted his resignation to President Roosevelt “in accordance with traditional usage” according to The Text Message blog of the National Archives.  Upon receipt, FDR sent a copy of the letter to Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles requesting preparation of a response for the President’s signature.[2]

The Under Secretary sent the draft to the President under cover of a letter that read, in part:

 It had been my understanding that during your Administration you have not expected chiefs of mission who have been promoted by you from the ranks of the Foreign Service to present their resignations before the commencement of your new term of office.  In 1936, and again in recent weeks, I have told certain chiefs of mission who come within this category that that is my understanding.

In that belief I have drafted a reply for you to send to Scotten along these lines.

If I am mistaken in this understanding, will you let me know accordingly?[4]

President Roosevelt responded with the following long memorandum:[5]

Memorandum from President Franklin Roosevelt to Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, November 22, 1940 via The Text Message blog

Continue reading, “In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in US Diplomatic Representation Abroad after the Election of 1940.

According to The Text Message blog, a similar directive went out after the election of 1944. The Under Secretary of State Edward Stettinius asked President Roosevelt if he wanted to follow the same practice and FDR “said he thought it would be wise.” As a result, the Department of State sent the following telegram:[1]

121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944 Via The Text Message

121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944 Via The Text Message

Also see “In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in U.S. Diplomatic Representation Abroad After the Election of 1944

The  formal resignations by chiefs of mission has been the practice after every presidential election.  We understand that a similar cable goes out even when there is a second presidential term.  We are curious if the language of this cable has changed through the years.  We will update if we are able to locate a copy of the current directive.

 

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Advice to the Next Secretary of State: Stay Home #Tillerson

Posted: 1:13 am ET

 

Back in 2013, when Secretary Kerry was on his first trip overseas, D.B. Des Roches, an associate professor at the Near East South Asia Institute for Strategic Studies published a commentary about Secretary Kerry’s trip and the current ‘success’ metric.

Most recent secretaries have considered travel to be the measure of their terms. When Hillary Clinton returned to work from hospitalization, her staff gave her a football jersey with “112” on it – reflecting the number of countries she had visited. Republicans retorted that Condoleezza Rice still held the record for most miles logged.
[….]
This focus on secretary of state travel as a measure of dedication, efficiency and competence is dysfunctional. We should decide, as Mr. Kerry’s first trip (to Europe and the Middle East) gets underway, to abandon this harmful metric and evaluate diplomacy in a way that acknowledges its complexity.

Read more: Secretary of State Scorecard: Work Done Not Miles Flown, Please.

The writer made some excellent points, of course, and everybody paid attention.

Secretary Kerry has now traveled to 91 countries, logging in 1,395,606 miles, 588 travel days and 2,995.94 hours of total flight time as of this writing. It’s only a matter of time before somebody will have a compare/contrast infographic of the secretaries of state’s travel records from Kissinger to Kerry.

Recently, Gerald M. Fierstein — who was President Obama’s Ambassador to Yemen from 2010 to 2013 and who worked under Secretary Kerry until his retirement in 2016 — penned a similar piece urging the next secretary of state to well, “stay home.” Ambassador Fierstein also points to a most consequential cost when the secretary of state is often on the road.  Excerpt via Reuters:

As President Barack Obama’s tenure draws to a close, Washington is turning its attention to one of its silliest traditions: toting up the travel statistics of the outgoing secretary of state, as if miles traveled correlated to diplomatic achievement.

In his four years as secretary of state, John Kerry has thus far (he still has six weeks left) traveled over 1.3 million miles and spent 564 days – nearly one-third of his time as Secretary – on the road.  Although this easily surpasses Hillary Clinton’s 956,733 miles and 401 days, Kerry will not be able to match Mrs. Clinton’s record of 112 countries visited.  Alas, Mr. Kerry will only make it to 90 countries during his tenure.
[…]
If this were simply a matter of the secretary undertaking quixotic missions with little to show for them, it would probably not be an issue worthy of much attention.  But there are costs to U.S. foreign policy interests that are imposed by the secretary’s frequent absences from Washington.

When the secretary is on the road, he is not at the table when the president makes decisions that directly affect foreign policy.  Equally, since other senior diplomats are frequently on the road, the State Department often does not have an equal voice with the other Cabinet departments in the National Security Council meetings. The net result is an imbalance between diplomatic options and military or intelligence community preferences.

Read in full below:

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The Many Adventures of Secretary of State John Kerry (2013-2017)

Posted: 12:50 am ET

 

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry has travelled the most number of miles at 1,395,606 than any other secretary of state. He has also spent the most number of days on the road as America’s top diplomat (588 days to Clinton’s 401) but apparently Henry Kissinger still holds the record at 200 for the most number of countries visited by a secretary of state; Kerry visited 91 countries while Clinton’s record is 112 countries.

Nonetheless, we doubt if Secretary Kissinger’s travels were as immortalized as Secretary Kerry’s many travel adventures. From getting lost in the Gobi Desert to escaping being cooked alive by the cannibals of the Isle of Embers, America’s Finest News Source  covered the secretary of state’s travels with admirable dedication. Here are some favorites via The Onion:

BANGKOK, THAILAND—Spitting out a broken tooth as his opponent lay motionless on the bare cement floor, a battered Secretary of State John Kerry emerged victorious Wednesday evening from an underground kickboxing tournament at Bangkok’s notorious Bang Kwang Central Prison, sources reported.

PANGSAU, MYANMAR—Thinking quickly to thwart disaster as he ventured deep into the Myanmar rainforest to meet with State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, Secretary of State John Kerry threw a vine over a pit of quicksand to save the life of his 12-year-old Moroccan companion, Drumstick, sources confirmed Monday.

BOGDARNYA, RUSSIA—Working frantically to gain access to the system’s override settings at the computer terminal controlling the impending implosion, Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to stop the self-destruct sequence of an underground bunker located thousands of feet below the Russian countryside Tuesday while oligarch Dmitry Granovsky taunted him from the numerous banks of monitors positioned throughout the facility, sources confirmed.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Telling the U.S. secretary of state this was his final chance to hand over the briefcase he had been pursuing for months, Malaysian ambassador Dato’ Seri Halim Wan Salleh reportedly promised John Kerry he would spare his life in return for the item Friday as he held the dangling American statesman over the side of the Petronas Towers Skybridge.

LOW EARTH ORBIT—Having stowed away aboard a Soyuz resupply rocket and silently slipped into the International Space Station as part of a high-level fact-finding mission, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly found himself forced to jettison two Russian henchmen from an airlock Monday after being set upon by the thugs in an ambush that resulted in a violent zero-gravity struggle to the death.

NOVOSINKOVO, RUSSIA—Staring directly into the drooping eyes of the woozy, flushed henchman sitting across from him in the back room of a dimly lit tavern, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly downed another vodka shot Sunday night as the last of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s security detail passed out beside him.

KINGDOM OF GOLDEN SANDS—Throwing herself in front of her beloved U.S. secretary of state as the royal executioner raised his scimitar, Princess Amirah of Arabia reportedly begged her father the sultan Friday to spare John Kerry’s life.

THE ISLE OF EMBERS—With the natives’ drumbeats suddenly falling silent as a mysterious midday darkness rolled across the island, sources confirmed that a solar eclipse occurred just in time Friday to stop imperiled U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry from being cooked alive by cannibals.

KIEV, UKRAINE—Following his overnight arrival in Ukraine amid the escalating regional tensions over the the Crimean peninsula, sources confirmed seeing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wearing a trench coat and cloaked in shadows at the back of a seedy, smoke-filled Kiev café Tuesday while reportedly awaiting a woman known to him only as Dasha.

SOUTHERN MONGOLIA—After failing to arrive at his destination in the Middle East this week for diplomatic talks with state leaders, sources confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had inadvertently traveled to Central Asia and is currently lost somewhere in the Gobi Desert.

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Who Will Be Acting Secretary of State Pending Rex Tillerson’s Confirmation? (Updated)

Posted: 1:11 pm ET
Updated: 5:26 pm PT | New clips added

 

WaPo reported that Republicans want most Trump Cabinet confirmation votes to occur on Inauguration Day. However, Democratic senators reportedly are planning to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March. WaPo notes that this would be “an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.”  The targeted nominees include Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State.

The third Secretary of State Timothy Pickering initially served as Acting Secretary of State from August 20, 1795 to December 10, 1795 under President George WashingtonHe was appointed as ad interim Secretary of State on August 20, 1795, and elevated to the position of Secretary of State on December 10, 1795.  It was one of the longest stints in an acting capacity for the State Department.

Since then, several individuals have served as Acting Secretary of State ranging in tenure from a couple of days to a couple of months. Career diplomat Lawrence Eagleburger served in an acting capacity from August 23, 1992 to December 8, 1992 under President G.H.W. Bush.  Michael Armacost also served in an acting capacity for six days in 1989 under President G.H. W. Bush while Walter J. Stoessel Jr served from July 5-16, 1982 under President Reagan.  More recently, however, the appointment in an acting capacity spans no more than a few days.  Frank G. Wisner served one day as Acting Secretary of State in January 20, 1993 under President Clinton.  Before Warren Christopher was appointed 63rd Secretary of State, he was previously appointed Acting Secretary of State for five days in May 1980 under President Carter.  During the transition from Bush to Obama in 2009, career diplomat William Joseph Burns served as Acting Secretary of State from January 20-21, 2009.

Secretary Kerry and his two deputies (Tony Blinken and Heather Higginbottom) are all political appointees who are expected to depart their posts by January 20. Of the six under secretary positions, two have incumbent political appointees (Sarah Sewall, Catherine A. Novelli) who are also expected to step down on or before Inauguration Day, two have acting incumbents who are career diplomats (Thomas Countryman, D. Bruce Wharton) and the remaining two are career diplomats, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. and the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy.

We’ve asked the State Department who will be designated as Acting Secretary of State in the event that Mr. Tillerson does not get confirmation immediately after inauguration day. The State Department directed us to Executive Order 13251 of December 28, 2001 which designates the order of succession for the agency. Based on this E.O., if the Senate drags the confirmation of Mr. Tillerson for months, the State Department will have the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. as Acting Secretary of State until such time when the Senate can confirm the 69th Secretary of State. In the event that Ambassador Shannon is not able to, the next in line is the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy.

Sec. 2. Order of Succession.
(a) Deputy Secretary of State; (Blinken)

(b) Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources; (Higginbottom)

(c) Under Secretary of State designated for political affairs pursuant to section 2651a(b) of title 22, United States Code; (Shannon)

(d) Under Secretary of State designated for management affairs pursuant to section 2651a(b) of title 22, United States Code; (Kennedy)

(e) The remaining Under Secretaries of State, in the order in which they shall have taken the oath of office as such; (Thomas Countryman, D. Bruce Wharton)

(f) Assistant Secretaries of State designated for regional bureaus pursuant to section 2651a(c) of title 22, United States Code, in the order in which they shall have taken the oath of office as such

Executive Order 13251 rules out the appointment of anyone who are in an acting capacity saying that “No individual who has not been appointed by the President by and with the consent of the Senate shall act as Secretary pursuant to this order.” It also says that “Notwithstanding the provisions of this order, the President retains discretion, to the extent permitted by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, 5 U.S.C. 3345 et seq., to depart from this order in designating an acting Secretary.”

 

Two clips to read on Rex Tillerson, one concerning his tax returns, and another from an individual who served on a jury duty with him in Texas.

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