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Leaving Job, He Calls 'Risks Worth It' : President's Man in Paris--an Undiplomatic Envoy

July 15, 1985|STANLEY MEISLER | Times Staff Writer

However, some analysts do believe that Galbraith accomplished much by preaching to conservatives in the United States.

"The French government knows," said a key official of the U.S. Embassy who is not a State Department employee, "that he has been able to persuade the conservatives back home that the Socialist government here was not a Communist government even though it had Communists in the Cabinet. The crazies back home would never have believed a professional."

The four Communists in the 42-member Cabinet left the government in July, 1984, in protest over the ruling Socialists' economic policies.

The most difficult public moment for Galbraith probably came last February when, expounding his views about the worth of political ambassadors, he told the New York Times that "there's something about the Foreign Service that takes the guts out of people."

"Foreign policy is too important to be left up to Foreign Service officers . . . ," he said. "It's like the line about war being too important to leave up to the generals. Well, the Foreign Service officer is like a military person. To move up, he has to avoid trouble. He learns in time to have a horror of confrontation."

'Tie His Tongue'

Secretary of State George P. Shultz, in an unusual move, openly belittled the ambassador. "When he says it takes the guts out of people," the secretary told a Voice of America interviewer, "somebody ought to tie his tongue for him."

On the morning after Galbraith's comments were published, the ambassador faced a tense meeting of his top staff at the embassy in Paris. Galbraith opened the session by saying he did not want to discuss the interview.

Most officers held their anger back and said nothing. But according to several sources, Adrian Basora, the political attache, a career officer who is viewed as well-informed and far from dramatic, stood up to say that he could not keep still, that he had to protest on his own behalf and that of the political staff of the embassy.

Basora's protest made it clear to everyone how deeply the staff had been hurt by Galbraith's remarks. Since then, the ambassador has insisted that the published interview distorted his views by making it seem that he had belittled the physical courage of career diplomats. He has not, however, said that he was misquoted in saying that they lack courage in dealing with their superiors.

Galbraith also upset the Foreign Service during the last election campaign by joining 20 other political ambassadors in endorsing Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) for reelection. Career officers, who are prohibited by law from taking a stand of this sort, believe that the political ambassadors hurt the nonpartisan tradition of the Foreign Service through their endorsement. The Foreign Service Assn. is lobbying for legislation to make it illegal for political ambassadors to make such endorsements in the future.

Galbraith is unrepentant about his endorsement. "We come from the same conservative wing of the party," Galbraith said of Helms, "and I have no embarrassment about supporting fellow conservatives. I think the reaction to that act was childish, and I don't think it is something that was worthy of the discussion it created."

Tennessee Businessman

There is some uncertainty within the embassy here about the man nominated to be Galbraith's successor, Joe M. Rodgers, a 51-year-old Tennessee businessman whose main credentials for the job are his conservatism and his work as a Republican Party fund-raiser. Rodgers lacks foreign experience; he started studying the French language a few months ago when he received word of his appointment. Still, as some see it, his lack of sophistication could be a virtue.

"The embassy is apprehensive about the new ambassador, of course," a high-ranking career officer said. "But we have been told that he is different from Galbraith, that he is willing to listen, that he has none of the intellectual arrogance that we associate with the East Coast establishment."

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