It wouldn’t be a story about Donald Trump if it didn’t start with “in a break with precedent.” In this case, it’s a break with decades of precedent: Trump has told all politically appointed U.S. ambassadors around the world that they must return home by Inauguration Day, full stop, end of story, consequences be damned.
And the consequences are plenty. For starters, it means that America won’t have diplomats in place in many countries by the time Trump is sworn in. That’s a situation that would endure for months, since the Senate has to actually confirm each new ambassador, one by one. It’s also liable to frighten our allies and embolden our not-so-allies, though if anything, that’s probably to Trump’s liking.
But it’s for exactly these reasons that past presidents have always made exceptions, even for political appointees from the other party, to ensure continuity in our diplomatic relations, and also just not to be raging dicks to people who’ve gone overseas to serve our country. Lots of them, for instance, have families and young children abroad with them—children who are in the middle of their school year. Without visas, these people can’t remain in their host countries and are scrambling to either find a way to stay, or to uproot their kids and place them in new schools back home.
It’s fucking obnoxious, is what it is:
In Costa Rica, Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney is hunting for a house or an apartment as his family—which includes four school-age children and his wife, who has been battling breast cancer—struggles to figure out how to avoid a move back to the United States with five months left in the school year, according to the diplomats.
Some anonymous Trump apparatchik claimed “there was no ill will in the move,” so of course that means there was. And you can be doubly sure, because you know who didn’t have to uproot her child in the middle of his school year when her husband suddenly had to leave town? Oh right!
At a White House farewell reception that Mr. Obama held on Wednesday night for noncareer ambassadors, many of them commiserated, attendees said, comparing notes about how to handle the situation.
Some expressed dismay that Mr. Trump, whose wife, Melania, has chosen to stay in New York to avoid moving the couple’s 10-year-old son, Barron, to a new school midyear, would not ensure that such allowances were made for American ambassadors.
Yeah, her. But none of Obama’s ambassadors. Who needs ambassadors, right? Not Donald Trump. He has a very good brain, uses the best words, and knows more than the generals, so he definitely knows more than our ambassadors do—I mean, he’s obviously terrific at diplomacy.
This is yet another reason why Senate Democrats need to grill the living daylights out of Rex Tillerson, the oilman who’s Trump’s nominee for secretary of state and would be in charge of our diplomatic corps. Does Tillerson think it’s a good idea to leave our embassies leaderless for an indefinite length of time, and to send a message to future diplomats that you’ll be treated like shit once your term is over? And if not, what does he plan to do about it?
If he doesn’t have good answers—and he won’t—Chuck Schumer & Co. need to do everything in their power to thwart Tillerson’s nomination. We’ll be watching.