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President Obama has been taking flak of late for giving fat-cat donors cushy ambassadorial posts. Despite some early signals that merit — knowledge of the local language, culture or region, or perhaps foreign policy experience — might play a role in determining who gets those jobs, big donors and bundlers seem to have grabbed the lion’s share of the most coveted spots.
Obama had specifically said he would continue the tradition of sending political picks overseas. Historically, around 30 percent of envoy positions are filled by politicals, the rest go to career Foreign Service folks, and Obama, when the dust settles, is likely to be in that range. In addition, many countries prefer non-career people who are said to be able to pick up the phone and speak directly to the U.S. president.
But a comparison of Obama’s early picks with President Clinton’s, for example, indicates substantial differences between the two Democrats. Clinton tended to pick people with experience in public policy — if not international policy — for the important embassies. His big donors were generally given jobs in smaller countries in eastern or northern Europe where they could do little lasting harm.
There is a nice chart that accompanies the story in the print edition of the Post. Support your daily newspaper and check it out.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”