Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merits & Midterms: Appointing Political Friends to Be Ambassadors

Appointing Political Friends to Be Ambassadors

By BRIAN KNOWLTON  Published: December 26, 2013  New York Times excerpt:
WASHINGTON — Charles H. Rivkin has had quite a ride, going in four years from an Obama fund-raiser and Hollywood media honcho to ambassador to Paris and now a nominee as an assistant secretary of state. 
In almost no other democracy could this happen. Diplomats are nearly always career professionals, products of intense competition and intensive training, with successive foreign rotations for posts deemed to require in-depth knowledge of a region, culture and language — not just political connections.
And so the question arises: Can a political appointee’s real-world experience, management savvy, influential contacts and even sheer star power compensate for a dearth of hard-earned familiarity with a host country’s realities?
There are success stories and embarrassments on both sides.
Consider Mr. Rivkin: While he was a leading fund-raiser for Mr. Obama as well as John Kerry, who has been his boss at the State Department, he is hardly without qualifications. He studied international relations at Yale and business at Harvard, ran a major company and speaks fluent French. In Paris, he drew high marks for a creative use of social media, vigorous minority outreach and promotion of American green technology. A State Department inspector general called him a “visionary non-career ambassador.” 

Plenty of Mr. Obama’s political picks have done well. 

But others have been harshly criticized as ill-prepared or temperamentally unsuited for the work. Inspector general reports described one such ambassadorial selection, an Obama fund-raiser, as “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating”; another, a former Obama confidant, was ranked last for interpersonal relations among 80 mission chiefs surveyed recently, no great distinction for a diplomat. Both have resigned. 

The White House insists that its recruitment practices comport with those of past administrations, and that it seeks a diverse selection of highly qualified people. “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.
Barack Obama's new ambassador to China - Merits or Midterms?
Yet, ever since President Jimmy Carter, who limited political ambassadorships to about 25 percent of the total, their number has grown. It now stands at 36 percent, according to the American Foreign Service Association. And the number of senior State Department jobs going to non-career diplomats has risen sharply. (Mr. Rivkin would be the first non-career country ambassador to lead the Economic and Business Bureau.)

Barack Obama has never acted in the best interest of the country as a whole. Cronyism combined with the  'collectivism' of the new left are just current incarnations of history's failed ideologies and only repackage repression.