If Secretary Tillerson and Assistant Secretary Risch want to be sure that the Foreign Service Officers serving in our consulates around the world are carrying out the Trump administration’s policies, then unannounced on-site audits are a necessary f

Leadership Lessons from Trump’s Cancellation of His London Trip

By —— Bio and Archives--January 18, 2018

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Leadership Lessons from Trump’s Cancellation of His London Trip
In the first episode of The Game of Thrones, King Robert asks Lord Stark to come to the capital as his Hand of the King because he is the one person that the King can trust.  The first lesson in leadership is that the work must be done by others and there is no more important task for a leader than the selection of subordinates who can be trusted to faithfully carry out the leader’s instructions.  This does not mean that a good leader wants to be surrounded by sycophants who blindly do what they are told.  A good leader wants subordinates who will not be afraid to speak up when they think the leader’s proposals are wrong headed.  But, if after the subordinate’s views have been given a fair hearing, the leader chooses to proceed as originally intended, the subordinate has two choices, wholeheartedly support the leader or resign.

Robert Johnson, the man President Trump appointed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, disagrees with the President’s characterization that selling the 99-year leasehold on our embassy in Grosvenor Square and building a new embassy near the Battersea Power Station in southwest London was a bad deal. So what did Ambassador Johnson do? Instead of resigning, or just keeping his mouth shut, he stabbed the president in the back.

Johnson wrote an op-ed for the UK’s Evening Standard in which he stated that “purchased and built from the sale of our London properties, the new embassy did not cost the US taxpayer a cent. Yet it is one of the most advanced embassies we have ever built.”

Ambassador Johnson is undoubtedly correct that the new embassy is a state of the art facility, but to write that it “did not cost the US taxpayer a cent” is not only untrue it is a slap across the President’s face.  Let’s start with the history.  The old embassy was located in Grosvenor Square, in the heart of central London, a short walk from the stores on Oxford Street. Our first ambassador to Great Britain, John Adams, lived in a house off the Square.  Eisenhower’s London headquarters were there.  The memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt is in Grosvenor Square.  The US Embassy there was designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen and built in 1960. After 9/11 a decision was made to move the embassy to a more secure location, but (probably on reflection given that the embassy was well guarded and secure) no action was taken until the Obama administration sold the Grosvenor Square leasehold to Qatar for £300 million well below the market value for this prime central London property.  The cost to construct the new embassy in southwest London is estimated to have been between £750 million and one billion pounds.  So Ambassador Johnson’s assertion that it “did not cost the US taxpayer a cent” is rubbish and the President’s statement that the Obama administration’s sale of “the best and finest embassy in London for peanuts, only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars” was a bad deal is spot on.

Having the ambassador to our most important European ally publicly disagree with the President is bad but it is only the tip of the iceberg.  Johnson’s op-ed was probably written by a senior Foreign Service Officer in the political or economics section of the embassy.  And here’s the rub: Obama-Clinton-Kerry appointees and liberal Foreign Service Officers still fill the halls at Main State and throughout our embassies and consulates worldwide.  They are working assiduously to derail the President’s foreign policy.  Ambassador Johnson’s snub, other than giving the British press, which is as visceral in its dislike of the President as the US media, front page stories about how Trump was being called a liar by his ambassador was no more than a hiccup.  The actual opening of the embassy on January 16 received almost no coverage. 

More pressing is what is happening every day at US consulate immigrant and non-immigrant visa counters around the world.  Colin Powell called our consular offices our first line of defense, but during the Obama administration they acted like a porous sieve rather than a tight mesh net.  Sadly, not much has changed since President Trump took office.  This is because Secretary of State Tillerson had been slow to replace key Obama appointees and instead has allowed them to purge the ranks of the State Department, with the result that too many of the wrong people, those who believe in defending our borders, were driven out.

Carl Risch, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs needs to do what General Curtis LeMay did when he took over the Strategic Air Command (SAC).  That is, he should create flying teams of experienced consular officers, not current officers but retired ones brought back to conduct unannounced on-site audits of visa applications, interviews, acceptances and rejections. The head of each team would have the authority to curtail officers who were failing to protect our borders by granting visas to individuals who should not be allowed to enter the US. This includes a wide range of people from potential terrorists to pregnant women who want to have their child in the US as the first step toward the chain migration of their extended families.

Curtis LeMay transformed the Strategic Air Command from an organization that was unprepared and incapable of carrying out its basic mission into the most formidable and effective bombing command the world had ever seen.  He didn’t accomplish this through unannounced on-site inspections alone, but they played a major role in insuring that every SAC unit performed as intended.  If Secretary Tillerson and Assistant Secretary Risch want to be sure that the Foreign Service Officers serving in our consulates around the world are carrying out the Trump administration’s policies, then unannounced on-site audits are a necessary first step.

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Al Kaltman -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Al Kaltman is a political science professor who teaches a leadership studies course at George Washington University.  He is the author of Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant.

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