You could say that Robert Jordan’s life has turned out to be a real-life episode of “The West Wing.” But there’s much more to it than that.
It all started when the Preston Hollow lawyer represented George W. Bush before he became governor. From there, the two maintained a relationship over many years. Jordan never knew that relationship would eventually land him the ambassadorship to Saudi Arabia and from there, the role of author.
“When he was elected president, I called to congratulate him,” Jordan said. “He said he’d like for me to serve in his administration.”
As it turns out, the Saudi Arabian government refuses to give diplomatic credentials to a “career ambassador,” but instead requests someone who has the president’s ear.
“I had lived abroad, I had studied a few languages, but I had never been to the Middle East,” Jordan said. “I had no prior diplomatic experience.”
In between Jordan’s presidential appointment and Senate approval, the Sept. 11 attacks in New York rattled the world. Suddenly, Jordan’s role became all the more crucial.
“I knew that second that my life had changed forever,” Jordan said.
In the end, he served in Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003, witnessing many difficult challenges and navigating through many trials. Afterward, he knew he had to write a book about the experience.
1989 Jordan first met George W. Bush at a party
1991 Jordan first represented George W. Bush
2001 Appointed and approved as ambassador to Saudi Arabia
2003 Returned from ambassadorship in Saudi Arabia
2004 Began conceptualizing book about experiences abroad
2006 Began teaching at SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies
“I felt that I had a story to tell,” he said. “This was really a unique experience for someone who had no diplomatic experience to be thrust into an atmosphere right after 9-11 in one of the most important relationships the United States has, and trying to fight through issues of extremism, human rights, military activity, intelligence threats, and bombings.”
In order to get all of that together, Jordan teamed up with writer Steve Fiffer, who had worked on former Secretary of State James Baker’s memoir.
“It didn’t take long to realize that he had been in one of the hottest, most dangerous spots in the world during a critical period in recent history,” Fiffer said. “That immediately made the project attractive, plus the feeling that we connected and it would be fun to work with him.”
Jordan, working back in law at the time, was stationed in Dubai, so the two would spend hours on Skype going over drafts of chapters and reviewing details of certain events such as room descriptions and dialogue.
“[Some] chapters were collaborative, with me writing the first draft based on our conversations and then sending it to him for rewrite,” Fiffer said.
All in all, Jordan hopes that readers will not only gain insight into foreign relations, but also get a glimpse into a very specific field of public life.
“There’s an audience out there that wants an inside story of what the life of somebody like an ambassador is like,” he said.
Desert Diplomat is available for purchase starting July 1.
“It’s a profile of a person who was thrown into an incredibly challenging situation,” Jordan said. “It shows that with the right attitude, hard work, and surrounding yourself with the right people, you can be successful.”