The Campaign Spot

‘I Want My Donor to Be Ambassador!’ ‘No, Mine!

During my time in Turkey, I had a chance to meet two U.S. ambassadors, Eric Edelman and Ross Wilson, both of whom were in their jobs because of their experience, skills, and knowledge, not because they had written large checks to the president’s campaign.

It’s rather embarrassing to know that in a bunch of less prominent countries, that’s how our top representative is selected. It’s rather disgraceful, and a bipartisan practice. Today’s Washington Post reminds us that this is one change that Obama did not bring to Washington:

For fat-cat contributors looking for vanity postings in Europe, the people to see at the White House — and to check in with in general — are the fundraising folks. That would be President Obama’s deputy campaign finance chairman, David Jacobson (who’s taken Canada), and his national finance director, Julianna Smoot. They’ll check your qualifications — such as when you started giving to Obama and whether you first supported somebody else — especially Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — how much you gave, when you stopped giving and then how much you gave and bundled for Obama.

The biggest plums — England, France, Italy etc. — are long gone. There might be a few lesser, but still quite fine, European ones left.

Many of the real working embassies often reserved for non-career people — places in Asia such as Japan, India, China, maybe Vietnam or Germany or perhaps Russia, or Brazil or South Africa — are said to be the last to be nailed down. Names float up and then down for a number of these. For example, there was Rick Inderfurth and then Timothy J. Roemer for India, Wendy R. Sherman and then Jim Leach for China, and Joseph F. Nye and then Norman Y. Mineta for Japan. This phenomenon, we were told, is because Clinton has been pushing her own favorites and opposing Obama’s picks. In some places the tussling occasionally has gotten most intense.

Curious. We had read somewhere that Obama won the primaries. No?

Great? Do any of these folks have any relevant background or experience with the countries they would be representing our nation in?

And even though this is an old practice, shouldn’t we demand better?