The Vapors
Trump Puts Foreign Service Knickers in a Twist

The President-elect has recently had a series of unfiltered exchanges with foreign leaders, prompting the White House to urge him to seek the State Department’s expertise in his encounters:

On Thursday, the White House weighed in with an offer of professional help. The press secretary, Josh Earnest, urged the president-elect to make use of the State Department’s policy makers and diplomats in planning and conducting his encounters with foreign leaders.

“President Obama benefited enormously from the advice and expertise that’s been shared by those who serve at the State Department,” Mr. Earnest said. “I’m confident that as President-elect Trump takes office, those same State Department employees will stand ready to offer him advice as he conducts the business of the United States overseas.”

“Hopefully he’ll take it,” he added.

Those convinced that Donald Trump’s election victory was the triumph of the Antichrist are rending their garments. They should calm down. Trump is never going to conform fully to the niceties of diplomatic society, but this early flurry of phone calls is an example of the kinds of missed signals and false starts common to almost every Presidential transition.

In the meantime, it’s going to be critical for U.S. diplomats, many of whom gain their entire picture of life in the United States from exactly the media outlets that most hate and least understand Trump and his political base, to come to some kind of comprehension about what is going on in America. The inability of American foreign services officers to understand or explain Trump and his worldview and political base to their interlocutors is likely to cause many more problems for American foreign policy over the next four years than any phone tête-à-têtes between Trump and foreign leaders.

This is one of the problems that the new Secretary of State will have to address early and effectively, or the next four years will be much rockier than they need to be.

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