Turns Out – Going Around the State Dept. is Nothing New

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What does a President do if he doesn’t believe he can trust his own State Department diplomats to conduct foreign policy the way he wishes? Find someone he can trust and send them instead. That’s exactly what Trump did when he tapped Giuliani. And Trump certainly wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last.

from Real Clear Investigations:

Giuliani-Style ‘Shadow’ Diplomacy: Par for the Course for U.S. Presidents

Rudolph Giuliani didn’t hide the fact that he was investigating whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Yet most media have treated Giuliani’s efforts as sneaky and suspect because he acted at the personal behest of the president and not as an official representative of the bureaucracy. The New York Times, for example, claimed Giuliani was conducting “a shadow foreign policy campaign.”

In fact, presidents since George Washington have turned to individuals without formal government positions to pursue foreign policy interests and objectives. Private citizens, often acting as special envoys, have helped negotiate issues ranging from trade to war. While critics deride such efforts as “back-door,” “secret,” or “shadow” undertakings, many presidents have found it useful to dispatch people they trust, who can think and operate outside the constraints of official channels in handling delicate matters.

Private representatives were essential in the early days of the republic in part because the federal government was small. During his first year in office, President Washington wrote to one of the Founders most responsible for penning the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris, who was on business in France. The president said he needed to know the “sentiments and intentions of the court of London” toward “a treaty of commerce.” Washington was looking for someone who could act with subtlety: “It appears to me most expedient to have these inquiries made informally, by a private agent.” Washington told Morris he looked forward to “the result of your agency.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt called kitchen cabinet adviser Harry Hopkins “the perfect ambassador for my purposes” after sending Hopkins on wartime missions to Great Britain and the Soviet Union. “He doesn’t even know the meaning of the word ‘protocol,’’’ FDR added. “When he sees a piece of red tape, he just pulls out those old garden shears of his and snips it.”

In modern times, Jesse Jackson pursued freelance foreign policy for decades before President Clinton made him Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa. Armand Hammer used his far-flung business interests to facilitate his “citizen diplomacy.” Although Hammer was particularly solicitous of the Soviet Union, presidents including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan tolerated – or more than tolerated — his personal diplomacy. Reagan once wrote Hammer, ”I value your insights on our policy toward the Soviet Union.” Clinton turned to Congressman Bill Richardson to be his “informal undersecretary for thugs,” as Richardson jokingly referred to himself, negotiating with dictators in places such as Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, and Haiti.

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