John Bolton for secretary of state

As everyone knows, a new administration usually means senior-level personnel changes in federal agencies across the board.  President Trump needs, and is entitled to have, his own team in charge of policy implementation.

What is less obvious is that the Department of State is likely to experience greater turnover than many other agencies with a change of administration because it has two basic components: one at home in the Harry S. Truman Building at 2201 C St. NW, Washington, D.C. and a much larger one abroad in embassies and related offices in countries with which we have diplomatic relations.  An incoming secretary of state will be involved in both types of personnel decisions, directly or indirectly.  A key question is who is most qualified to hit the ground running on day one and do a great job of personnel management inside Foggy Bottom apart from the issue of managing foreign policy on behalf of the president.

My answer: former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

The impact Secretary of State John Bolton would have inside Foggy Bottom would be dramatic and immediate – far more so than someone like Rudy Giuliani or even Newt Gingrich.  This is what a President Trump should want.

As a quick look at State’s org chart shows, the department is a bloated mess, like many federal agencies.  Unlike Giuliani and Gingrich, Bolton knows the building firsthand, understands how it works, and would be able to figure out what needs to be changed and how without the expensive and time-consuming services of an army of consultants.  Moreover, a radically reorganized State Department would set an important precedent for top-down changes in other agencies of government, some (many?) even more bloated than State.

Once Bolton passed the word to the rank and file that he planned a major reorganization based on streamlining, an impressive pile of resignations would likely appear on his desk in a short time.  Such would probably materialize even if Bolton did not intend to carry out a massive reorganization.  His reputation as a no-nonsense hardliner in foreign policy matters would convince career employees, at management and non-management levels, that it was time to...well, bolt.  These folks might well succeed in co-opting newcomers like Giuliani and Gingrich, but they know perfectly well that Bolton can’t be co-opted.

Getting rid of the old guard at State is something every president wants.  Given how much he disagrees with his predecessor, I imagine that President Trump would consider this a top priority.  As the org chart indicates, the secretary of state does not actually run what goes on inside the Truman Building.  The two deputies do that, at least on paper, and they have a host of under secretaries, assistant secretaries, and office directors under them to help out – or hinder, if decisions from above do not suit them.

A clean sweep at State is badly needed, and Bolton is the right man for the job.  His efforts would put pressure on other agency heads to follow suit.  Imagine if that happened throughout the government!

There’s no point belaboring the obvious on John Bolton’s foreign policy credentials, so a few quick points will do.

Reset with the Russians?  The Iranian nuke deal?  Two-state solution in the Middle East?  The Cuba deal?  Defeating ISIS with diplomacy?  Letting China run wild in the Pacific?

A single answer will do: no way.

As to the matter of selecting ambassadors, Bolton’s reputation would likely discourage many ineffective or incompetent candidates who are wealthy or well connected from considering the job even if offered, which it shouldn’t be.  The last thing Trump should want is to play the game many of his predecessors did of rewarding buddies or business associates with a plum diplomatic post abroad in places like London or Paris. 

As everyone knows, a new administration usually means senior-level personnel changes in federal agencies across the board.  President Trump needs, and is entitled to have, his own team in charge of policy implementation.

What is less obvious is that the Department of State is likely to experience greater turnover than many other agencies with a change of administration because it has two basic components: one at home in the Harry S. Truman Building at 2201 C St. NW, Washington, D.C. and a much larger one abroad in embassies and related offices in countries with which we have diplomatic relations.  An incoming secretary of state will be involved in both types of personnel decisions, directly or indirectly.  A key question is who is most qualified to hit the ground running on day one and do a great job of personnel management inside Foggy Bottom apart from the issue of managing foreign policy on behalf of the president.

My answer: former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

The impact Secretary of State John Bolton would have inside Foggy Bottom would be dramatic and immediate – far more so than someone like Rudy Giuliani or even Newt Gingrich.  This is what a President Trump should want.

As a quick look at State’s org chart shows, the department is a bloated mess, like many federal agencies.  Unlike Giuliani and Gingrich, Bolton knows the building firsthand, understands how it works, and would be able to figure out what needs to be changed and how without the expensive and time-consuming services of an army of consultants.  Moreover, a radically reorganized State Department would set an important precedent for top-down changes in other agencies of government, some (many?) even more bloated than State.

Once Bolton passed the word to the rank and file that he planned a major reorganization based on streamlining, an impressive pile of resignations would likely appear on his desk in a short time.  Such would probably materialize even if Bolton did not intend to carry out a massive reorganization.  His reputation as a no-nonsense hardliner in foreign policy matters would convince career employees, at management and non-management levels, that it was time to...well, bolt.  These folks might well succeed in co-opting newcomers like Giuliani and Gingrich, but they know perfectly well that Bolton can’t be co-opted.

Getting rid of the old guard at State is something every president wants.  Given how much he disagrees with his predecessor, I imagine that President Trump would consider this a top priority.  As the org chart indicates, the secretary of state does not actually run what goes on inside the Truman Building.  The two deputies do that, at least on paper, and they have a host of under secretaries, assistant secretaries, and office directors under them to help out – or hinder, if decisions from above do not suit them.

A clean sweep at State is badly needed, and Bolton is the right man for the job.  His efforts would put pressure on other agency heads to follow suit.  Imagine if that happened throughout the government!

There’s no point belaboring the obvious on John Bolton’s foreign policy credentials, so a few quick points will do.

Reset with the Russians?  The Iranian nuke deal?  Two-state solution in the Middle East?  The Cuba deal?  Defeating ISIS with diplomacy?  Letting China run wild in the Pacific?

A single answer will do: no way.

As to the matter of selecting ambassadors, Bolton’s reputation would likely discourage many ineffective or incompetent candidates who are wealthy or well connected from considering the job even if offered, which it shouldn’t be.  The last thing Trump should want is to play the game many of his predecessors did of rewarding buddies or business associates with a plum diplomatic post abroad in places like London or Paris. 

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