The new movie Argo tells a somewhat close version of the way five American diplomats evaded capture in the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and, thanks to the courage and nerve of the Canadian government and the wily imagination of a CIA officer, survived to escape back to the United States. Coming on the heels of the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American civil servants in Libya we are reminded anew of the risks carried by American officials abroad.
Meanwhile, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with unemployment figures that seemed flattering to the Obama Administration recently, some suggested that the numbers had been "cooked". An effort was even made, with scant results, to show that BLS employees had contributed to the Obama re-election campaign.
I have served as a political appointee in the State Department and at the U.S. Census Bureau, the agency that collects data for the BLS. In each case I encountered career professionals who tended to be liberal in their political disposition, but careful--sometimes ardently careful--not to engage in actions that could be construed as partisan. The Census employees were almost allergic to political influence from any quarter. For example, the White House is always eager to know what the new employment numbers are going to be ahead of the public release. In fact, it seems to me that the President's staff should learn the results before the media do; otherwise, they can't offer a considered opinion of them when they are made public.
On the other hand, the BLS and Census tradition is steadfast against any meddling with the numbers or any leaks. The reasonable policy that obtained when I was in office (in the Reagan Administration) was that the President got the numbers ahead of the press, but only by hours, not days. Leaks therefore were prevented and yet serious White House officials had time to digest the BLS/Census report before being asked to comment.
The idea that statistical agencies might make mistakes is totally believable to me, but the idea that they would cook the numbers is not.
Similarly, when you serve overseas on behalf of your country you realize very quickly that whatever differences you have on the domestic scene are nothing compared with your inevitable--factual and emotional--identification with the United States' perspective abroad. Foreign Service officers may grumble. They may write indignant comments to their colleagues and rationalizing memos to their superiors. But, almost like the military, they stand up smartly and salute (figuratively speaking) when a policy is established. There are exceptions, but that is the rule.
Don't confuse these professional employees with employee unions. Not in the federal workforce and not in the states or local government. In some cases the employees who work for the unions are not even highly regarded by other employees. Their meetings often are poorly attended. And civil servants feel little compunction to follow their unions' political choices at the ballot box.
However, the employees still are the source of the extensive dues the unions collect and spend largely on political candidates and causes. The unions have a narrowly selfish perspective. And where civil servants' union dues are compulsory, the ultimate "contributor" is the taxpayer. That is, the people as taxpayers pay the unions to lobby the people as voters. Huge sums are involved. They are the "hidden persuader" in many elections, a special interest worthy of a lot more attention.
But don't let your ire about that problem lead to distrust of the many good people who presently serve conscientiously and well in public employment. For one thing, once elected, your candidate--as office holder--is going to need them.