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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
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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