One of the more troubling aspects of the Trump Administration is the way it has damaged the State Department (which is the primary way we reach out to other countries). Here is what veteran journalist Dan Rather has to say on this subject:
One of the tragic ironies of our time is that in an age when we need a strong State Department, one that's well respected, well led, and filled with brilliant and committed public servants, we have instead seen chaos, rock-bottom morale, an epidemic of vacancies, and the dereliction of duty at the top.
The brief and confused tenure of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State may well go down as the most inauspicious and damaging terms of anyone to hold the office. It was a combination of his instincts and those of his boss, President Trump. But there are very worrisome signs surrounding his replacement.
We should have learned during the George W. Bush era that foreign policy led by the Pentagon alone is a recipe for failure. It was a lesson that most of our presidents knew well, and led accordingly. The State Department has been one of the most cherished and respected arms of American strength on the world stage. It has not been perfect, but its track record over time has been pretty darn good.
Today, the challenges are plentiful, serious, and complex. It isn't the binary world of the Cold War (although Russia is resurgent) or amorphous terrorism (although that remains a potent concern) or the rise of China (something Trump's policies are exacerbating) or our moral standing (something Trump's policies are shattering). It's also new challenges, first and foremost climate change which could wreak more havoc over time than any single item (or group of items) on the list above. And yet in the new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, President Trump has picked a climate denier! That alone is a scandal.
Let's be clear. American leadership and our standing on the world stage is not preordained. It is not bestowed by the Almighty. It is dependent on hard work and competence. It is done in meeting rooms, through non-governmental organizations, and the elusive art of statecraft. It is hard work just to keep the status quo, let alone to promote American interests.
We deserve a State Department that is clear-eyed and responsive to the real world. It is no place for toadies or ideologues. This is a battle for America's soul, and her destiny. Every American, especially those in elected office, should demand better and hold the Trump Administration accountable.