When the startling news hit on August 2 that Dr. Kiron Skinner had been dismissed as Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, reaction and reports in official Washington DC were mixed — and very emotionally-charged.
Skinner, 58, was not only one of the highest black appointees in the Trump Administration but one truly committed to President Donald Trump’s foreign policy agenda.
The Capitol Hill publication Politico reported that Skinner — a Harvard graduate, a veteran of several national security boards under President George W. Bush, and co-author of best-selling books on Ronald Reagan — was fired because of “her ‘abusive’ management style, including making homophobic remarks and accusing people of having affairs, according to two people.”
Skinner told Newsmax she denies making such comments. Skinner allies formerly at State and outside the government have been supportive of her and deny she treated staff inappropriately.
In April, Skinner raised hackles in the media while speaking at the New America think tank.
She warned that the U.S. rivalry with China would be a difficult one because “it’s the first time that we will have a great-power competitor that is not Caucasian.”
Trump administration critics took the comment as confirming a U.S. shift of policy toward “white” Russia against “non-caucusion” China.
Skinner said her comments were taken out of context.
Dr. Scott Sandage of Carnegie Mellon University, a teaching colleague of Skinner’s, dismisses any claim of homophobia against her.
He recalls when he championed benefits for gay partners at Carnegie Mellon back in 1999, Sandage said that “Kiron Skinner knocked on my office door to introduce herself and lend support. In the years since, she has been a gracious colleague and friend.”
“There’s a competing set of interests at State,” J. Kenneth Blackwell, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, told us, “You’ve got the career Foreign Service Officer (FSOs) who have been there for years, you have civil servants, and you’ve got the political appointees, who are outnumbered.”
Blackwell noted that “eight years of a Democratic president have embedded a lot of folks in the State Department structure.”
The high opinions of Kiron Skinner that Newsmax heard from co-workers have been echoed by numerous distinguished Americans.
“Kiron is a first-class scholar who tackles important issues and applies a keen, analytic mind to the topic at hand with boundless intellectual energy,” said former Secretary of State George Shultz, with whom Skinner worked closely on his much-praised memoir “Turmoil and Triumph.”
Shultz added that Skinner “adheres steadfastly to the principles of honesty and integrity."
Shultz’s high opinion was strongly seconded by historian and best-selling author Victor Davis Hanson, who hailed the embattled former official for her explanation “of the recalibration of American foreign policy under the present administration with rare insight and analyses — a foreign policy scholar of the first rank.”
Ironically, Skinner’s abrupt termination came three days after she was widely praised for helping to organize the celebration ceremony of the 230th anniversary of the founding of the State Department.
Skinner says she is not looking back at the termination at State, but will focus on pushing President Trump’s agenda in the think tank and private sector.
Friends of Skinner told Newsmax she will return to teaching at Carnegie Mellon University and will also rejoin as a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are also working.
Kiron is expected to focus her academic work on changing U.S, relations with China.
As one former colleague of hers put it, "she spoke of writing a new ‘X’ article on China [based on the storied article written anonymously by diplomat George F. Kennan in the July 1947 Foreign Affairs that spelled out the ‘containment’ policy eventually adopted by the U.S. for stopping worldwide advances by the Soviet Union].”
“Like Kennan with Russia, Dr. Skinner felt China had not abandoned its own ambitions of world domination and we had to take a new look at our ‘softer line’ on China,” the same source said.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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