Joel Mowbray

Releasing a signed letter denouncing President Bush on the same day that the 9/11 Commission issued its much-publicized interim report last week, 26 former diplomats and retired military brass gained very little traction in their bid to knock the President.

What people missed is a bunch of disgruntled ex-diplomats who amply demonstrate the deeply ingrained biases of the Foreign Service?or more to the point, the people who comprise the vast majority of Bush?s current foreign policy team.

Common sense would dictate that the President of the United States would have the ability to shape his entire administration, including his foreign policy team.

But when it comes to the State Department, common sense doesn?t apply.  Even most senior positions are filled by careerists, people who do not change from one administration to the next.  And because of union rules that even Jimmy Hoffa never would have had the guts to demand, State?s career Foreign Service employees can?t be fired by the Secretary of State?even for a felony conviction.

Sounds crazy, yet it is sadly true.  Clinton?s Secretary of State Warren Christopher ignored personnel policy and fired a woman who had plea-bargained to a felony count?of defrauding the State Department.  She sued, she won, she got her job back, and got back pay.  Why?  Because, the court ruled, the Secretary of State can?t fire even a convicted felon.

To add one more level of institutionalized insanity, the Secretary of State does not even have any authority over personnel decisions, except for the small percent that are considered politically-appointable.  All hiring, firing, transferring, and promoting is done by a panel of senior Foreign Service Officers (FSOs).

This presents very real political problems, especially when current FSOs harbor as much contempt for Bush as the 26 signers of the letter explicitly endorsing the defeat of the President come November.

On people?s desks and doors throughout the State Department are political cartoons mocking and pillorying the President.  The openness of it suggests that lambasting their ultimate boss is not simply tolerated, but encouraged.  Could you imagine a Fortune 500 company with that sort of flagrant insubordination?

Yet as tempting as it would be to point a partisan finger at the Foreign Service, many of the ones who loathe President Bush are, in fact, Republicans.  What they all have in common, though, is a worldview entirely antithetical to that of the commander-in-chief.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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