Obama Sets Modern Record for Political Ambassadors

David Hawkings: “By recent historic standards, Obama is starting to test the ceiling for putting friends and campaign supporters in U.S. diplomatic posts. Altogether, 35 percent of Obama’s assignments so far have gone to political people. But in his second term, the number has grown to 41 percent… Even assuming the GOP Senate won’t countenance confirming many more big-money bundlers in the next two years, Obama looks to have assembled the most political diplomatic corps since Ronald Reagan, whose grand total was 38 percent. Thirty percent of George W. Bush’s ambassadors were from outside the ranks of the foreign service, as were 28 percent of Bill Clinton’s, 31 percent for the elder George Bush and 27 percent for Jimmy Carter.”

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  • pisher

    He’s got his reasons, and if I knew what they were, I’d know if I agreed with them or not.

    But I’ll say again–he’s our Reagan. A whole lot smarter than theirs–but also under a 24/7/365 media microscope Reagan never had to deal with.

    • Good_Lt

      Reagan was able to reach across the aisle and pass budgets with a Democrat house.

      Obama? Not so much. Obama doesn’t know how to negotiate, and in that was, is inferior to Reagan.

    • Good_Lt

      Reagan was able to reach across the aisle and pass budgets with a Democrat house.

      Obama? Not so much. Obama doesn’t know how to negotiate, and in that was, is inferior to Reagan.

      • Democratic is the adjective form.

        Man of those Dems were blue dogs and or represented districts swept by Reagan.

        Also, Dems actually believe in governing and are willing to compromise for the good of the country.

    • Godfrey de Bouillon

      Nah. He’s just your Carter, back for more.

    • roshetar

      “-he’s our Reagan. A whole lot smarter than theirs-”

      At what, pray tell, is your proof of this?
      His “credentials”?
      Obama strikes me as being of average intelligence.
      Of course, if he were to release his SAT scores and high school & college transcripts, I might be persuaded otherwise.
      Same with any factual positive results of his administration of a business or organization.
      It would also help if he could extemporaneously,put together a cogent sentence without pauses, ers, ums, & uhs – and the use of a teleprompter.

      Reagan was not a genius, as with most of us, But the canard that he was a dummy is belied by the publishing of copies of his speeches which show heavy editing and marginal incisions. I would place Reagan’ intelligence at least on a par with Obama’s; and when it comes to administrative skill, way above.

      Lastly, I would bet my house that my SATs & GPA are higher than Obama’s. I just don’t go around telling everyone that I am the smartest man in the room and could do everyone else’s job better than they do themselves. [Because I know it is probably not true and I am not a narcissist.]

      • E_Grise

        “Lastly, I would bet my house that my SATs & GPA are higher than Obama’s”
        You didn’t need to say so: it’s clear that you would think that.

      • Wynstone

        President Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law. That distinction goes to the top ten percent of the class. If you think an average person can achieve that, you’re ignorant and probably overestimating your own intelligence.

        • E_Grise

          Aw, show the guy some pity: he’s still hung up on the teleprompter meme. Probably a very slow listener.

        • keyne

          Obama was also elected head of the Harvard Law Review, and went on to teach Constitutional law at another of the world’s top schools. But either the troll is unaware of these facts or he thinks any bozo can achieve those milestones just by typing loudly.

      • as a parody troll, you’ll do just fine

      • Lumpenproletariat

        “Obama strikes me as being of average intelligence.”

        And what, pray tell, is your proof of this?

        “Reagan was not a genius…”

        Reagon was pretty intelligent, though – the main difference was he used a significant portion of that intelligence to pretend he wasn’t.

        “…When it comes to administrative skill, way above…”

        Another fact-free assertion. How, exactly, are you measuring that?

        “I just don’t go around telling everyone that I am the smartest man in the room…”

        Great! Neither has anyone else here. Nor has Obama ever done that. Or Reagan, as far as I know.

        You do go around telling everyone you’re smarter than the President of the United States, based on nothing, however – I’m not certain that’s better.

  • Wynstone

    Are we really pretending Ambassadorships are not favors and rewards? They have always been ceremonial posts and not big players in actual foreign policy.

    • Flash Man

      that is absolutely as far from fact as can be

      • Wynstone

        I’m aware there are exceptions and I’m sure President Obama know which posts are truly sensitive positions and which are not.

        • Godfrey de Bouillon

          I don’t think he even cares which posts are truly sensitive and which are not.

          • Wynstone

            I don’t think your opinion is valuable in the slightest when it comes to the President’s state of mind.

          • Godfrey de Bouillon

            Oh, I don’t know. My take on his state of mind is probably quite similar to that of many of my fellow voters who just handed him a rather large defeat at the polls.

          • Wynstone

            You are one hell of a mind reader! Now you speak for the whole electorate! Obama wasn’t on any ballot and most of your fellow voters actually stayed home, but I’m sure you know why better than I with your psychic abilities.

    • Gumby

      I thought we elected someone who was going to change the way Washington did business.

      • Wynstone

        Maybe you were starry-eyed in 2008, but I wasn’t. I knew we were electing a normal human.

        • pisher

          Above-average, for sure. But no one person can change a whole system–or human nature. Washington has remained Washington, ever since it started.

          Obama has to work with the materials at hand.

          • Wynstone

            Of course. The rhetoric of President Obama was never about how he alone could do things either. It was always about the power of change in collective effort. He just never got the cooperation or even good faith dealing from his opposition.

        • Gumby

          Actually nominating qualified ambassadors doesn’t seem like a heroic step in changing Washington for the better.

          • pisher

            Nobody said it was, and he’s hired quite a lot of them. But the fact is, there’s always been a political dimension to hiring ambassadors, and he didn’t run on getting rid of that. The ambassador, whoever he or she may be, will always have a highly qualified staff of career professionals to do the actual work, and sometimes the connections some of these people have can be useful.

            Ideally, it would be all professionals. But what are you ready to give up to get that? Because in politics, you never get everything you want.

          • pisher

            Nobody said it was, and he’s hired quite a lot of them. But the fact is, there’s always been a political dimension to hiring ambassadors, and he didn’t run on getting rid of that. The ambassador, whoever he or she may be, will always have a highly qualified staff of career professionals to do the actual work, and sometimes the connections some of these people have can be useful.

            Ideally, it would be all professionals. But what are you ready to give up to get that? Because in politics, you never get everything you want.

          • pisher

            Nobody said it was, and he’s hired quite a lot of them. But the fact is, there’s always been a political dimension to hiring ambassadors, and he didn’t run on getting rid of that. The ambassador, whoever he or she may be, will always have a highly qualified staff of career professionals to do the actual work, and sometimes the connections some of these people have can be useful.

            Ideally, it would be all professionals. But what are you ready to give up to get that? Because in politics, you never get everything you want.

        • Good_Lt

          You chanted CHANGE but you lied. You didn’t usher in CHANGE – you ushered in SAME, and more of it.

          Guess that’s a little dishonest, huh?

          • Wynstone

            Why do you think I’m a proxy for the Obama administration or the DNC? I’m just a voter and for the record, my state went republican in the electoral college in 2008 and 2012 so my vote for Obama didn’t even matter.

            I never chanted or ushered anything. Go howl at the wind somewhere else.

          • Wynstone

            Why do you think I’m a proxy for the Obama administration or the DNC? I’m just a voter and for the record, my state went republican in the electoral college in 2008 and 2012 so my vote for Obama didn’t even matter.

            I never chanted or ushered anything. Go howl at the wind somewhere else.

      • Buford2k11

        He did, just not the way we expected it to go…the Hate and Fear of the Black Man In Charge, is that not change? It is wrong, but it did change the way the gop/baggers/evangelicals/and hate groups have gone all out Crazy…and as we are discovering, the long simmering racism in our nation was never very far from coming to the surface…Oh, more could have been done, of course, but look at who and what PBO faced from the beginning…

        • pisher

          He’s fixed some problems–he’s also helped wake us up to some problems we thought we’d fixed, but not even close.

          Thanks Obama.

          😉

        • Gumby

          Not any of that matters in President Obama nominating the most unqualified ambassadors in history.

          • pisher

            Reagan nominated more over the course of his Presidency, and Obama has not caught up to him yet. It says so right up there.

            You didn’t even read the piece, so you’re not qualified to comment on this.

          • OBforObama

            The most? Really? Is that what the paragraph said? I don’t think so.

    • remylebeau

      There’s some truth to the fact that many of these are basically ceremonial posts. However, other countries appoint prominent artists, authors, advocates, etc. to be their ambassadors, as a means to share their country’s culture with the world. We appoint people who make big political contributions.

      In the grand scheme of things, it’s way down the list of problems created by our campaign finance laws. Nonetheless, it’s blatant cronyism and both parties engage in it.

      • Wynstone

        I get your point, but how many Americans can name a single foreign Ambassador let alone discuss their cultural point of view? As noble as the exercise may be, it is negligible in effect. The state of American culture is such that I’d rather we didn’t share it.

        • James Hormel and Caroline Kennedy are the only two I could name.

          • Wynstone

            That’s not bad. I was actually referring to Ambassadors to the United States from other countries. The person I replied to was saying that ambassadors serve a cultural function in addition to a diplomatic one and while that may be the case, they carry their message to a limited audience. A handful of people who attend diplomatic functions and they are a rarified group that are usually already cultured. The rest of the country does not benefit.

  • Flash Man

    I grew up in a foreign service family so I generally accept that this is part of the way the game is played. In the mid-80s we were in Barbados and the ambassador was a campaign hack named Paul Russo. But when we were in Russia it was Thomas Pickering and in Kuwait it was Ryan Crocker. In a lot of these countries, the ambassador is an extremely important role.

    The problem is countries like Argentina and Hungary are strategically important and should have someone who knows what they doing there. If Obama nominated Bell to be ambassador to Monocco or whatever, nobody would really have a problem with it. It’s where they are going that is the issue, not how many of them there are.

    • pisher

      Right, but there’s only so many non-strategic posts to hand out. Plus maybe somebody you owe bigtime really loves the tango? Or goulash?

      Obama still hasn’t matched Reagan’s two-term percentage.

      The thing about politics, is you never have a situation where everybody’s happy.

      • Flash Man

        I want to say that for the first term, Obama was so good about NOT doing this some of his rich supporters were pissed off at him. I guess there is only so much bullshit you can deal with as Pres before you just say “F it, do whatever I have to worry about ISIS.”

      • remylebeau

        He had billion dollar war-chests for each of his campaigns and we’re past the point where people are so over saturated with political ads, that we’re seeing serious diminishing returns.

        I fully appreciate the fact that campaigns cost money and you can’t win without it. But Obama has plenty of money. He can afford to piss off a few big donors and be just fine.

        • pisher

          He can afford to piss them all off now, because he’s not running for anything–but he made promises, and he’s keeping them. We couldn’t afford to lose that last Presidential election. We can’t really afford to lose the next one, and you better believe our nominee will be doing the same thing.

  • fgtayl01

    Party and precedence aside, it’s hard to see why giving govt. jobs to big donors is something I’d want to defend.

    • pisher

      Then don’t. But understand that power comes with strings attached. If you prefer the purity of powerlessness…….

    • Uncle_Harvey

      And every now and then someone thinks for themselves.

  • andereandre

    Ambassador to a country where you have close relations with is a purely ceremonial function. The lines are direct, no need for an intermediary . You select them on their capability to finance their own glamorous parties. Ambassador to the UK sound prestigious but it is a fluff function.
    Ambassador to Russia or China is where you assign your top people.

    • pisher

      You need highly capable people at ANY embassy–but it’s like “Yes, Minister”–the ones elected or appointed are not necessarily running the show. There’s a permanent diplomatic class who were there before these people showed up, and will be there after they leave. Who are used to dealing with these neophytes.

  • tightlikethat

    Reagan holds the modern record at 38 percent; Obama is lower at 35. So why does the headline say “Obama Sets Modern Record”?

    • The article said that it was 35% in Obama’s first term but has grown to 41% in his second.

  • Pirini Scleroso

    Okay, I’m an Obama supporter, but I’m not a blind one. This is not a good trend.

  • BarryR

    That people can defend these practices demonstrates the depths to which we have sunk.
    You want to appoint some former Hollywood star to serve in England or Canada, fine. But when you appoint an ambassador to Argentina who doesn’t speak Spanish, you are insulting a country who is a major player in Latin America. When you appoint a former soap-opera producer (and I know some very bright people who have done that job), but when that woman doesn’t even take the time to study the country and our involvements with them, as well as their government, so she doesn’t look like an idiot during Senate hearings, she insults all of us. She bought the position (raised $1.4 million) and she doesn’t have to respect anybody.
    That Obama, no longer running for anything, still feels the need to do shit like this is just sad. And as a Democrat and an American, I am embarrassed by it.

  • OBforObama

    Yes, he set a record, because as everybody knows, 35% is MUCH more than 38%, because Ronald Reagan.

  • I just finished “In the Garden of Beasts,” Erik Larson’s biography of William E. Dodd, a college professor who was FDR’s first ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937.

    Larson makes the point that (unlike Dodd), most ambassadors did come from great wealth and were big contributors to the President who appointed them. But they were appointed not just for their campaign contributions but because their great wealth allowed them to entertain foreign political leaders more lavishly on their own dime than what the State Department could afford. I don’t know if that’s still done today, but that makes these sorts of rewards somewhat less unseemly.