In an unprecedented and unexpected move, President-elect Donald Trump has ordered all of President Barack Obama’s appointed ambassadors to leave their posts and submit their resignations before Inauguration Day.
This is unusual because past administrations always have nearly always offered U.S. ambassadors a grace period beyond Inauguration Day, according to Politico:
In typical presidential transitions, politically appointed ambassadors have at times been allowed to stay on the job for weeks or months after the new president has taken office. It’s partly been done this way out of personal courtesy for their family situations, but it can also help allow for some continuity as the new administration moves to fill a vast number of postings stateside and abroad.
As a result of the president-elect’s announcements, many of Obama’s ambassadors are now reportedly in a rush to figure out new living arrangements.
“Some of the ambassadors really thought they could stay, so there’s a little bit of a scramble now,” an unnamed State Department official state. “They’re mostly resigned to it now.”
The only problem is that many ambassadorial positions still remain unfilled, meaning Trump needs to hurry up his own efforts to designate ambassadors before Jan. 20. Moreover, after being chosen, the prospective ambassadors must be confirmed, which will take even more time.
Speaking of which, former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland Faith Whittlesey believes the president-elect should “staff embassies with citizen-ambassadors who first and foremost share the President’s vision and values and are knowledgeable about international affairs.”
“At this critical point, we need such citizen-ambassadors more than ever,” she argued in a piece published Friday at The Daily Caller. “Providentially, we have the opportunity because of the unique, paradigm-shattering circumstances of Donald Trump’s election to see them appointed in significant, game-changing numbers.”
Her point is that the habit of appointing “entrenched elites” to serve as ambassadors needs to end. I cannot say I disagree with her.
But again, Trump needs to speed up the selection process, as many key U.S. allies — Britain, Germany, Canada, Japan — will be left without a U.S. ambassador because of his abrupt announcement.
It is good that he wants to change the way Washington, D.C., operates, but in implementing these changes, he must also keep in mind the potential consequences.
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The New York Times: In Break With Precedent, Obama Envoys Are Denied Extensions Past Inauguration Day
Newser: Trump Wants Obama’s Ambassadors Out Immediately
The Hill: Five key ambassador picks for Trump