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Monday, April 23, 2018

Colin Powell was right.

The former Republican secretary of state late last year warned that Donald Trump’s callous, shortsighted foreign policy agenda, where diplomats were ignored and countries often insulted via Twitter, was gutting the U.S. State Department.

According to a new McClatchy report, “60 percent of the State Departments’ top-ranking career diplomats have left and new applications to join the foreign service have fallen by half.”

This comes in the wake of Trump’s vulgar, racist comments about not wanting black immigrants arriving in the U.S. from “shithole” countries, like ones in Africa.

With Trump vowing to slash the State Department’s budget, while simultaneously undercutting Secretary of States Rex Tillerson, more and more staffers and diplomats are heading for the door.

“Others have wrestled with staying, feeling unsure whether they’re protecting U.S. influence or contributing to its erosion,” McClatchy reports. “Many diplomats had never contemplated leaving State, always intending instead to make U.S. diplomacy their life’s work and long-term career track.”

That career track often begins by joining the Foreign Service, which is seen as the backbone of the U.S. diplomatic corps. But under Trump, applications have plummeted.

He’s having the exact opposite effect that President Barack Obama did. Applications spiked to a new high in June 2009, soon after Obama was inaugurated. And between 2009 and 2012, the Obama administration expanded the number of Foreign Service employees by 21 percent.

Why the stampede away from Trump by diplomats and would-be diplomats?

Last August, Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling American diplomats from his country because it would save the U.S. “a lot of money,” a comment that stunned State Department employees. (Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic.)

During a Fox News interview in November, Trump said that he was not concerned about the huge number of unfilled jobs in the State Department because, in his view, “I’m the only one that matters.”

And then there was the “shithole” fiasco, after which in at least one African country, the U.S. ambassador was summoned by the host government and asked if Trump considered that country to be among the “shithole” ones he denigrated during an Oval Office meeting.

“It’s one thing for us to go in and slam our hands on the table and say this is what we want,” one U.S. official told McClatchy. “It’s another to denigrate them and make it crystal clear this is what our leadership thinks about them in the vulgarest of terms.”

By all indications, Trump wants the State Department gutted. As of now, he’s succeeding.