The Biggest Jerk In The Foreign Service Was Talked About In Hillary Clinton's Emails
Even the most polished of diplomats can fall victim to the gossip trap, it seems. In the State Department's most recent Hillary Clinton email dump, one missive between Clinton and longtime confidante Sidney Blumenthal showed that the presidential candidate and former secretary of state had been privy to a conversation about "the biggest jerk" in the Foreign Service — although it wasn't specified just who that person was. For the most part, the email's juicy details were redacted for classified reasons or privacy concerns.
"Just for the record, if she does not already know it [redacted] is one of the biggest jerks in the foreign service," Blumenthal quoted John Kornblum as saying. Kornblum, a retired foreign service diplomat and former ambassador to Germany who once served on Henry Kissinger's Policy Planning staff, then went on to describe the unidentified individual as a poor choice to fill Deputy Secretary of State William Burns' shoes. (Burns was scheduled to leave the position in a few short months.)
"Not only can he not get along with people or think clearly on anything, he also went over totally to the dark side during the Bush administration," Kornblum explained, according to Blumenthal. "He is in a league with [redacted] on this one. He once literally shouted me down at a conference where I suggested the Bush administration was hurting U.S. relations with Europe." (Bustle has reached out to Mr. Kornblum for comment and is awaiting a response.)
Since we know that "redacted" is a man, it should logically narrow the field considerably — but given how cloak and dagger much of Washington is on just about everything, that detail accounts for a drop in the ocean (if that). For a little more perspective on why that's the case, here's what was happening at the time the email was first sent.
In March 2011, the State Department received word that Burns, then under secretary of state for political affairs, was being tapped by the Obama administration to be the next deputy secretary of state, a role which he would skillfully commandeer until November 2014. In turn, the Department began compiling a shortlist of candidates who might possibly be able to fill Burns' seat.
Here's where it starts to get murky. While the list of candidates waiting to fill Burns' seat as deputy secretary of state (upon his retirement in 2014) was more highly publicized, the names of those being considered to fill his spot as under secretary remained largely hush-hush. For the larger part of August and the first half of September 2011, the seat was left vacant. From the outside, it seemed the Department was having trouble finding a decent replacement.
Eventually, the Department settled on Wendy Sherman, a former social worker who served as both a counselor and the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under President Bill Clinton. But prior to that appointment, as the email indicates, there was plenty of turbulence.
"I have no opinion of my own ... nor do I know Dan Fried, who is among those mentioned [on the list of potential candidates]," Blumenthal wrote in the Clinton missive which was timestamped around 10 a.m. on March 31, 2011. "But I thought I would pass along ... Kornblum's unsolicited opinion, for its unvarnished tone."
In response, Clinton replied that Kornblum's remarks were "very" interesting. "Kornblum was Bill's Ambo [ambassador] to Germany," she added.
Given the tone and cadence of the email, it doesn't seem likely the two (and Kornblum) were talking about Fried, who later went on to serve as as a special envoy charged with overseeing the closing of Guantanamo Prison. Prior to that appointment, Fried had served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under President George W. Bush and the U.S. ambassador to Poland under Bill Clinton.
None of Burns' later potential successors for deputy secretary really ring any alarm bells either — for the most part, none of the names that made it to the papers (most notably those of Sherman and current Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken) gave anyone pause to consider that that's who Clinton and Blumenthal may have been talking about.
Until anyone from Clinton's former circle comes forward to clear things up, it seems that the looming mystery of the "biggest jerk in the Foreign Service" will continue to be just that — rumors and speculation.
Who said politics wasn't interesting?