Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was presented with the Trainor Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy at Georgetown University Wednesday. As she accepted the award, she delivered her first public remarks since testifying against President Trump last November during impeachment hearings. Let’s just say she’s still not a fan of how the Trump administration or the State Department is handling foreign policy.
Yovanovitch was relieved of her position in May 2019 as she was caught up in the Ukraine corruption story. It is alleged that two Guiliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, reported to President Trump that she was bad-mouthing him overseas as she served. During a dinner with Parnas and Fruman, Trump demanded Yovanovitch be removed. That dinner was in April 2018 so it was thirteen months later that she was replaced by Bill Taylor.
She’s a hero to The Resistance now. The audience at the award ceremony rewarded her with several standing ovations as she trashed the administration. The auditorium was packed and Bill Taylor was there for her, too. She cautioned the audience – largely consisting of students – that she would “be blunt”. No one should have been surprised about that warning. Like many others, she didn’t really have the gumption to actually name-check President Trump so she spoke in general terms. By doing so, she also threw state department officials (mostly career employees like herself) under the bus. If only everyone could be as enlightened as she and her cohorts on the left are, you know.
Without explicitly naming the president or other officials in the Trump administration, Ms. Yovanovitch lamented a general “hollowing out” of the department in which she spent her career. She lamented damaging budget cuts to other agencies and international organizations working toward American foreign policy goals.
“It’s not about a handout for foreign friends; it’s about enlightened self-interest,” she said. “For example, it’s hard to see how cutting funds to the World Health Organization in the middle of the coronavirus crisis keeps Americans safer.”
I assume that criticism about cutting funds to the WHO is in response to Trump’s 2021 budget submitted to Congress. In the budget, half of the funding for the WHO is cut. The Trump budget calls for a cut of more than 21 percent from the federal budget for foreign aid. Democrats in the House say that is a non-starter. In the Trump era, Democrats are in favor of more spending for foreign aid while traditionally it is a Republican issue. Trump’s America First initiatives require cuts in foreign spending and focusing on domestic initiatives.
President Trump was fully within his rights to fire Yovanovitch. She served at the pleasure of the president as an American ambassador. She was a holdover from the Obama administration. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Trump has allowed so many holdovers to remain in place, especially those who are obviously not supportive of his policies. Every new administration purges the previous administration’s people and replaces them with their own people. Yovanovitch is a hero to The Resistance now and received a very soft landing in Washington with a job at Georgetown. This award is proof that she is heralded for her behavior. In the political world, especially in a presidential election year, her behavior is celebrated. I don’t imagine her remarks will please current leadership at the state department.
The retired career foreign service officer, as she did in her testimony before the House during the impeachment inquiry, cautioned that the department was being “hollowed out” and helmed by “senior leaders (who) lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills.”
“The policy process has been replaced by the decisions emanating from the top with little discussion,” Yovanovitch said Wednesday. “Vacancies at all levels go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy, even behind closed doors.”
“We need to re-empower our diplomats to do their job. We can’t be afraid to share our expertise or challenge false assumptions,” Yovanovitch said. “Working off of facts is not the trademark of the deep state but of the deeply committed state in the words of Ambassador McFaul. Truth matters,” she added, referring to the former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) February 13, 2020
McFaul was Ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration. He is a frequent guest on cable television and a vocal critic of anything President does in foreign policy. The fact that Yovanovitch quotes him is indicative of her attitude toward the current administration. What all of this boils down to is that Yovanovitch believes she is the smartest person in the room and her opinions should be heeded, even by the president. She wanted to be in control. So, when all else fails, she criticizes the administration in personal terms – “amoral”, and a lack of trustworthiness. She speaks of “threats” and “fear”, which is code for Trump’s a bully. Most of all, she is a creature of the swamp, of the status quo. She’s a career employee of the state department and she thinks she should be the decider of foreign policy. She forgot she works for the president, he doesn’t work for her.
“To be blunt: An amoral, keep-’em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul, especially in our social media-savvy, interconnected world,” Yovanovitch said. “At some point, the once-unthinkable will become the soon-inevitable: that our allies, who have as much right to act in their own self-interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners, partners whose interests might not align well with ours.”
“This is what intellectual courage looks like. This is what a moral compass looks like.” Those are the words of Joel Hellman, the dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. In other words, the bad Orange Man and his people at the state department are not moral or in possession of intellectual courage. Yovanovitch is a good example of a career employee who forgot her job description. Unelected bureaucrats shouldn’t be rewarded for such unprofessional behavior.