April 3, 2019

Should I wait here while you go put on a helmet so you can bang your head against the wall?

That's right, kids. We all know Trump picks the BEST PEOPLE for everything, but this one takes the cake. His nominee for Ambassador to the Bahamas, Doug Manchester told Congress that the country was part of the United States. But it's okay, because he donated $1 million to the Trump Inaugural Committee. The one under investigation.


And, people. WHYYYYYYY would we need an ambassador to a part of our own coouunnnttrrryyyyyy? That's not what ambassadors do. They represent their own country to... oh, just forget it. How is everyone's head doing?

In seriousness, while our diplomatic relations with the Bahamas don't seem dire, this is a truly astonishing deficiency in leadership — especially when compared with other presidencies. As Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle reported today, Trump still has 52 diplomatic vacancies to fill, halfway through his term. In other words, only 66% of the ambassadorships are filled. By this point in his presidency, Clinton had filled 96% of them. Obama, 89%.

Other fun numbers include the facts that traditionally, 50% of ambassadorships are filled with career diplomats. People who know what they're doing. They've studied, and sh*t. They know the Bahamas is its own country. The other 50% is made up of political appointments (yes, perhaps donors, people who didn't get cabinet positions, given as consolation prizes, etc.) Presumably, though, even those political appointees have attained some level of educational and moral maturity, and have experience and education in and about the country to which they will represent the United States.

Not so under Trump. Contain your shock. First of all, a larger portion (2/3) of his appointments are political than his precessors'. And according to the scholar who put all of these numbers together, Ryan Scoville, they are of much lower quality in terms of language skill and knowledge than previous presidents' political appointments.

SCOVILLE: The reason why it's argued that it's problematic is that these individuals who are political nominees are typically under-qualified in a variety of different ways. They're more likely to lack language abilities that are relevant to the receiving state, they're more likely to lack experience in that state, lack knowledge about the state, lack knowledge about the region in which its located. They're also more likely to lack organizational leadership experience, even experience in foreign policy in general.
Under the Trump administration what's new is that a lot of these tendencies have become even more, you know, more significant. They've exacerbated in some ways. That is if we were to compare the average political nominee under the Reagan administration, for example, to the average political nominee under Trump, the Trump nominee is inferior to the Reagan nominee in a number of different ways. Even though we're comparing apples to apples here, that is we're not comparing Reagan career nominees to trump political nominees. Even looking at the Reagan political nominees, trump's political nominees are less qualified in a variety of different ways.
Even comparing Obama and Trump, there's been a dropoff with president Trump. That's not a categorical dropoff. For example, the language abilities between the two different sets of nominees are comparable across Obama and Trump. But in terms of foreign policy experience, regional experience and I think organizational leadership as well, the Trump nominees are inferior.

Oh, come on, Prof. Scoville. Surely, you must be exaggerating, right?

Well, let's check. Another appointee, to Slovenia, is a card-carrying Right Wing Nut Job. Lynda Blanchard shared far-right conspiracy theories on her Facebook page, and she founded an Evangelical Christian charity, but her husband donated half-a-million to the inaugural committee, so off she goes! Ambassador Blanchard, representing us well in Slovenia, I'm sure. Then there's the guy representing us in Morocco, who is a car dealer with zero diplomatic experience, but hey, he donated a quarter-mil to the committee, so he's having a great time on those glorious beaches. Don't forget the guy appointed to the United Arab Emirates...this one actually matters! John Rakolta, also has zero diplomatic experience. But he is a real estate developer, and donated big-time to the inaugural committee. So, why appoint someone with background in Middle East history, politics, and religion to that diplomatic post when you could appoint a real estate guy? Is Trump looking for his next big business venture? To hell with whatever tensions are going on over there. Jared can handle it, right?

Basically, you have everything you'd expect from Trump as far as international diplomacy goes. People who give him money or curry his favor get what they want, country be damned. Donate a million bucks? Get a cushy station in The Bahamas, U.S.A.!

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