Sam Brownback has not had a good run as governor of Kansas. The former senator has been pushing an agenda of hardcore social conservatism, and tax cuts without matching spending cuts have blown a hole in the state’s budget.
One recent poll, showed an eye-watering 66 percent of Kansas voters disapproving of his job performance, and just 27 approving approving. Only scandal-plagued Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey beats him out for the title of America’s least-liked governor.
It’s little surprise that Brownback was looking for a proverbial way to get out of Dodge City before his term expires in January 2019. President Trump has dutifully obliged, announcing this week that Brownback will appointed to the position of “United States Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom.”
While many existing positions at the State Department continue to go unfilled, Trump apparently found time to reward a political supporter with a face-saving way out of a failed governorship.
Rex Tillerson has been fighting to ax such jobs
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, has been fighting to end the proliferation of so-called “special envoy” positions. Most ambassadors are, of course, representing the United States to either a foreign government or an international organization. Special envoys on the other hand are given the rank of ambassador but carry a more nebulous issue-based portfolio.
These positions have often been created not out of any real need but instead to cater to domestic political interests by providing them a voice and a representative at taxpayer expense. On topics ranging from disarmament to humanitarian assistance, few of these jobs exist without a political lobby to match.
For that reason, Tillerson has faced stiff resistance on Capitol Hill to his desire to streamline the State Department by getting rid of the clutter of special envoys.
The result is a backlog of special-interest patronage jobs that often duplicate what should be the responsibility of our nation’s regular ambassadors. In Haiti, for example, a special envoy was created to handle recovery from the devastating earthquake in 2010, even though the United States also has a regular full-time ambassador in Port-au-Prince.
Religious freedom is, no doubt, an important issue. Whether appointing Brownback to this position will do anything for it isn’t so clear. With Tillerson reportedly being sidelined and threatening to resign, this appointment could be another sign that Trump is not paying much heed to the man he appointed as the nation’s chief diplomat.
If Brownback doesn’t want to be in Kansas anymore, the voters of Kansas would be happy to let him go. He doesn’t need a make-work position in a State Department bureaucracy to resign his position as the state government’s chief executive.