A lighter take

Dude, where’s my staff? Trump’s test for the State Department

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, in Huntsville, Ala. Asia is getting used to living with Trump’s broadsides, though it can’t shrug them off completely. Many people are unnerved, but not panicked, by his latest exchange of threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The U.S. president dialed up the rhetoric at the United Nations, saying his country would have “to totally destroy North Korea” if forced to defend itself or its allies. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
President Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senator Luther Strange, in Huntsville, Ala.

While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is earning his merit badge in controversy this week, from denying rumors he wanted to leave his post to sidestepping whether he called President Trump a moron, one thing is undebatable: The State Department is shrinking, hemorrhaging career foreign service officers. These nonpartisan professionals earned their jobs after surviving a battery of tests, including an SAT-like written exam and oral analysis of solutions to various hypothetical foreign diplomacy scenarios. Now they need to be replaced. And fast. With no time for a lengthy vetting process, we think POTUS should devise a new exam that he’ll administer to applicants, based on his recent “overseas” experience and priorities for the department. It could go like this:

“Thank you for coming. The trip I just took taught me a lot about travel and oceans and people. Also weather. It’s very warm in the tropics. You don’t need a parka.

“We have a lot of countries. A lot of countries. So many, but do we really need all of them? Why don’t you write down the first 10 countries that come to mind, and we’ll see what everyone has and maybe look into cutting loose some of the ones that are underperforming or that nobody has ever heard of, because keeping ties to all of them is wrecking our budget.


“Next, diplomacy. The old way was very bureaucratic. So much back and forth and cables and talking. Using Snapchat, show me how you’d resolve the conflict in the Middle East.

“Next, and this is fun. Match the foreign leader to his, or her — I’m equal opportunity, don’t let anyone tell you any different — nickname. Even if they’re nasty. Bonus for new ones I haven’t thought of or secretly use in private.

“The paper towel thing went so well in Puerto Rico, they really loved it, and I’m seeing a lot of great feedback on it, that we’re thinking of doing a deal with Bounty for a #MAGA pattern. So use the blank page you have to help design our new product. And if you can, think of anything else that’s light and easy to toss at people’s heads. We love helping people.

“History. [Pretends to fall asleep.] Bor-ing! But I’ll make it fun. Every death is a horror, but ranking only for deaths, and from catastrophes only, and I’m talking real catastrophes, not just hurricanes with, like, a couple of dozen dead, say which country is the best at natural disasters? The very best.

“Incidentally, can we also mention some of the words they use in our State Department that aren’t even American? Attaché. They call a person a briefcase. We’re getting rid of all the funny words. Also, persona non grata. That sounds like cheese we have at Trump Café, which you should try, by the way. Show them your Number 2 pencil and they’ll take care of you. So write down some new words. Whatever you like, maybe we’ll use them. We’ll see. For persona cheese person I like just “loser.”

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“Geography. Which of the following is not a country: Canada? Mexico? Genovia? The US Virgin Islands? And, incidentally, I talked to some people when I was there. That name? Completely misleading.

“And bonus points if you can get this one, because I’ve been trying to figure it out for years: Which country has the best-looking women? Czechoslovakia? The United States? Or Slovenia? You can only pick one at a time.

“So, by law, we’re very legal here, believe me, this exam has an oral component, which also isn’t what you think. I’m going to give you — you’re welcome — a very easy test to see how you’d do in a diplomatic situation. So, we’ll go around the room and say the first compliment that comes to mind. They don’t have to be about me, but if it helps, I’ll accept them. And feel free to thank me for things.

“Finally, and because I’m nice, I’m making this last one very, very easy. So, so easy. Who was the worst secretary of state ever? I mean ever, ever? If you don’t get this, I don’t know, maybe we can find you something else to do. Maybe you can work in our embassy in Guam.

“OK, thank you all, and have a good time!”

Debra A. Klein is a writer in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @IWishIHadTyped.