Texas Gov. Rick Perry (Patrick Semansky/AP)

“I’m not sure our State Department serves us well,” Perry said Tuesday on a radio program with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. “I’m not talking about the Secretary of State here. I’m talking about the career diplomats and the Secretary of State who, all too often, may not be making decisions, or giving advice to the administration that’s in this country’s best interest.”

“We need to have a discussion with Congress to make sure that the decisions that are being made are in America’s best interest,” Perry said later.

In response, the American Foreign Service Association — which represents current and former foreign service officers — said Thursday that Perry’s comments on career diplomats “reflect a serious misunderstanding of their role in promoting American interests overseas.”

“Diplomacy is rightly recognized as the first line of defense and a vital instrument for ensuring national security, along with the military,” AFSA said in a statement. “Foreign Service professionals carry out their role with exemplary dedication all over the world, including war zones and other dangerous regions.”

To help amplify their point, AFSA noted that hundreds of career diplomats have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. Among them, AFSA says, six ambassadors: John Mein (Guatemala 1968), Cleo Noel (Sudan 1973), Rodger Davies (Cyprus 1974), Francis Meloy (Lebanon 1976), Adolph Dubs (Afghanistan 1979) and Arnold Raphel (Pakistan 1988).

Other diplomats have been killed in France, Greece, Pakistan, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan and Iraq, while embassy bombings Lebanon, Kenya and Tanzania have killed dozens more.

“We need more, not less, support from our political leaders and citizens for their work to defend and advance our interests abroad,” the group said.

At the blog E-mail from the Embassy, writer Donna (who doesn’t use her full name for security reasons) takes Perry to task for questioning the sacrifice of Americans working abroad.

“I’m not a diplomat myself. Which is why I can say, very undiplomatically, that Rick Perry is a moron,” Donna wrote.

“Here’s the way it works, Mr. Perry, since you’re clearly not too familiar with how the Foreign Service operates. The U.S. Department of State looks for the smartest people it can find, and then, if it can interest them in a low-paying, lonely and dangerous job, somewhere in the far reaches of the globe, it hires them.

She added later that, “We have Republican diplomats. We have Democratic diplomats. We have gay diplomats. We have diplomats who oppose gay marriage. We have Muslim diplomats and Jewish diplomats, and girl and boy diplomats.”

“What we don’t have, Mr. Perry, are diplomats who joined the Foreign Service because they wanted to give screwed-up advice directly to president,” she added. “You won’t find a single person in the entire State Department who joined solely to get rich, or to advance a personal agenda at some great cost to our nation.”

Asked to clarify the governor’s comments, a Perry campaign spokesman didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

The State Department also did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Rick Perry makes light of gaffe, vows not to quit

The Fix: What we learned from last night’s debate

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.