Pushing Cookies at the Coal Face.

Author:Baker, Robert
Position:Diplomats in diplomatic receptions

Nothing but a bunch of "cookie pushers" is an ancient slur against diplomats who are thus seen as simply sitting at fine tables sipping tea and offering cookies to equally insipid, wealthy and powerful guests abroad.

In fact, diplomatic receptions, lunches, dinners, or simple wine and cheese works are intricate payoffs or seductions and very hard work. The pit face of cookie pushing is when the President visits. Everyone at the Embassy turns out to make sure he and his retinue meet or greet in the right order, time and place everyone of use to American interests. The Ambassador works hardest as any slipups are his responsibility. Even the wealthy, politically appointed Ambassador needs to make the President and his visiting staff happy. The career Ambassador's next post may be in a steaming jungle if mistakes are made or in an important country if all goes well during the "king's progress".

Detailed plans are made, including the social side of the visit (and changed at the last moment if the President so decides) and sent for approval long before Air Force One lifts off the runway near Washington, D.C. Every step of his visit is literally planned and timed with the politics of the visit uppermost but with security always in mind. Guest lists are sent by the Embassy with brief biographic sketches of each person the President will meet, including possible questions or topics that might be raised and suggested Presidential responses. Some issues must be resolved, some side stepped, some delayed and some obscured, none can be safely ignored. God help the officer who forgets one, if it leads to a surprise for the President or his staff.

On the other hand, gifts may fall from White house visits. An obscure officer in Central Africa impressed Bobby Kennedy during an Africa visit. Upon Bobby's return to the White House, he lifted the officer out of Africa to become the Director of the U.S. Information Agency. That was a career leap across the usual twenty years or more of hard work. Sycophants referred to him as the Cardinal, but I thought of him as the Deacon. Bobby needed a Black face in an important position.

The lowest officer gets the most and stalest cookies to push in all circumstances. Someone must be duty officer around the clock checking incoming cables from all time zones in case someone in the Presidential retinue needs to be alerted immediately. Same goes for other ranking visitors.

The many locals who help practically in visits must...

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