Thursday, March 2, 2017

There's No Michael In The Shadows

This from Charles Pierce is one of the most horrifying things I've read in the past six hours.

Now, it seems that the president*, as part of Steve Bannon's great experiment in supply-side Leninism, simply is letting the entire department wither away while Rex Tillerson bops around the globe. Remember all those stories about "rubber rooms," where unemployable teachers whiled away the hours because you couldn't fire them? It sounds to me like the State Department—the freaking Department of State—is turning into one big rubber room.

With the State Department demonstratively shut out of meetings with foreign leaders, key State posts left unfilled, and the White House not soliciting many department staffers for their policy advice, there is little left to do. "If I left before 10 p.m., that was a good day," said the State staffer of the old days, which used to start at 6:30 in the morning. "Now, I come in at 9, 9:15, and leave by 5:30." The seeming hostility from the White House, the decades of American foreign-policy tradition being turned on its head, and the days of listlessness are taking a toll on people who are used to channeling their ambition and idealism into the detail-oriented, highly regimented busywork that greases the infinite wheels of a massive bureaucracy. Without it, anxiety has spiked. People aren't sleeping well. Over a long impromptu lunch one afternoon—"I can meet tomorrow or today, whenever! Do you want to meet right now?"—the staffer told me she too has trouble sleeping now, kept awake by her worries about her job and America's fading role in the world. "I used to love my job," she said. "Now, it feels like coming to the hospital to take care of a terminally ill family member. You come in every day, you bring flowers, you brush their hair, paint their nails, even though you know there's no point. You do it out of love."

But don't worry. The president*'s son-in-law is on the case.

"They really want to blow this place up," said the mid-level State Department officer. "I don't think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump's son-in-law] can do everything. It's reminiscent of the developing countries where I've served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing."
This will certainly end well.

But while senior State appointees have yet to be appointed, other staff has been showing up. The Office of Policy Planning, created by George Kennan after World War II, is now filled not just with Ph.D.s, as it once was, but with fresh college graduates and a malpractice attorney from New Jersey whose sole foreign-policy credential seems to be that she was born in Hungary.


The last month, the staffer said, "has been a very deliberate stress test." "There seems to be no effort to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of people who are here, who just want to help," said the mid-level officer. Instead, they see the White House vilifying them as bureaucrats no one elected, and it all seems, the mid-level officer said, "symbolic of wanting to neuter the organization." "This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire," said the mid-level officer. "America is over. And being part of that, when it's happening for no reason, is traumatic."

Can't say I'll miss being an empire much but, also, I think we need a State Department that exists somewhere outside of Jared Kushner's head.

Jared Kushner, I had the feeling he was Michael Corleone to Steve Bannon's Sonny or, rather Luca Brasi, but anyone who would try to do that is more of a Fredo.   I don't have any illusions that Mike Pence will be any better at being president than he was at being governor of Indiana, he was so bad that Republicans were glad to get shut of him, but having Trump's crime-family princeling son-in-law with that kind of power is ... well, those State Department sources said it.

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