Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Rufus Gifford to be @StateDept’s Chief of Protocol

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On May 28, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate his Deputy Campaign Manager and former US Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford to be the State Department’s Chief of Protocol with the rank of Ambassador during his tenure. The WH released the following brief bio:

Rufus Gifford, Nominee for Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service, Department of State

Rufus Gifford is a private consultant who left his consultancy work to serve as Deputy Campaign Manager, Biden for President. Earlier, Gifford was the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark.  Prior to that, Gifford was the Finance Chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in Washington, D.C., Finance Director, Obama for America, Chicago, Illinois, and Finance Director, Democratic National Committee, Washington, DC.  Earlier he was the California Finance Director, Presidential Inaugural Committee, for President Obama’s first inauguration and was a Political Consultant in Los Angeles, California.  Actively engaged as a civil society leader, Gifford has promoted and sponsored a variety of organizations including UTEC in Lowell, Massachusetts, The LGBT History Museum in New York, NY, Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. and The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA. Gifford received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1996. 

According to history.state.gov, the Department first established a Division of Protocol on Feb 4, 1928. All incumbents since 1961 have held the rank of Ambassador. The Protocol Office has been part of the Office of the Secretary of State since July 12, 1965. The Chief of Protocol serves as the protocol officer for the U.S. Government and advises the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and other high-ranking officials on this subject.
If confirmed, Ambassador Gifford would succeed Sean P. Lawler who served from 2017 until 2019. Lawler made news just prior to the G-20 summit in 2019 and left his post shortly after that according to news reports. The Chief of Protocol office has been a hot mess:

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@StateDept Appoints Cam Henderson as Chief of Protocol

 

On August 12, the State Department appointed Cam Herderson as its new Chief of Protocol. She replaces Sean Lawler who was sworn in as Chief of Protocol of the United States, with rank of Ambassador on December 1, 2017. In late June, Bloomberg reported that Mr. Lawler was pulled off AF1 manifest after his staff complained of intimidating behavior, including reportedly, carrying a horsewhip in the office (see @StateDept’s Protocol Chief Sean Lawler to Quit Before G-20 Summit #horsewhip #wherearethehorses). It looks like the new Protocol Chief does not have an ambassador rank and did not require Senate confirmation. Below is a brief bio via state.gov:

Cam Henderson was appointed as the Chief of Protocol of the United States on August 12, 2019. In this role, Ms. Henderson leads the Office of the Chief of Protocol in its mission to advance the foreign policy of the Trump Administration by creating and fostering an environment for successful diplomacy. Welcoming kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, and other foreign leaders to the United States, Ms. Henderson serves on the front lines of diplomatic engagement, building bridges and fostering understanding between peoples and governments. Prior to her appointment as the Chief of Protocol of the United States, Ms. Henderson served as the Deputy Chief of Protocol.

Ms. Henderson brings 20 years of experience in politics and fundraising to her role as the Chief of Protocol. Before joining the U.S. Department of State, she was Special Assistant to the President in the Office of Presidential Personnel in the Trump Administration. She worked extensively in the political realm in New Jersey, serving as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s finance director during his 2016 presidential campaign. From 2010-2012, Ms. Henderson honed her protocol skills as First Lady Mary Pat Christie’s Chief of Staff and Director of Protocol. In 2013, she left the NJ State House to help New Jerseyans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, working as executive director of the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund and ultimately raising 42 million dollars to help with those relief efforts.

In the early stages of her career, Ms. Henderson worked for President George W. Bush in the Office of Presidential Personnel, on the George W. Bush re-election campaign, and at the Republican National Committee.

Ms. Henderson is originally from Chattanooga, TN and is a proud graduate of American University.

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@StateDept’s Protocol Chief Sean Lawler to Quit #horsewhip #wherearethehorses

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Sean Lawler who was sworn in as Chief of Protocol of the United States, with rank of Ambassador on December 1, 2017 is reportedly resigning over allegations of discrimination and harassment. Bloomberg is reporting that he was pulled off AF1 manifest after his staff complained of intimidating behavior, including allegedly, carrying a horsewhip in the office.

Whoa! There are hidden horses  in Foggy Bottom that need whipping?

Folks are understandably confused. “Wait a minute. Is this right? The dude is carrying around a horse whip on the job?” Or “Wait. Carrying a horsewhip ISN’T protocol?” Or “What, exactly, is the utility of a horsewhip in matters of protocol?” One HR person who isn’t confused notes: “If your manager has a horsewhip in his office & you don’t work with horses… maybe you’re in a less-than-stellar work environment.”

An aside — horsewhip is word of the day for a bunch of folks online.  And come to think of it, what the HR person wrote made sense. This would be challenging when the Best Places to Work ranking comes around next year. The 2018 ranking, by the way, is roaring red and down -3.3 points, comparable only to the State Department’s ranking in 2003.

Anyway, Lawler who was nominated in September 2017 will reportedly resign. As of this writing, his bio is still prominently displayed on state.gov.

NBC’s Josh Lederman reports that “Two U.S. officials said that employees in the chief of protocol’s office had been informed that Ambassador Sean Lawler had been suspended indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation. A third official said that Lawler had told the State Department’s leadership he planned to submit his resignation to President Donald Trump after the G-20 summit, which starts Friday in Osaka, Japan.”  The U.S. officials who told NBC News about Lawler’s situation reportedly declined to elaborate on the specifics of the allegations, but did say that “numerous employees in his office had resigned in protest of his management and behavior.”

These media reports follow the most recent IG report on the toxic workplace at U.S. Embassy Libreville (see U.S. Embassy Gabon: State/OIG’s Ode to All Things Dreadful in a Small Post).  We’re quietly watching a couple more on bad bosses bubbling up.

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