Obama ‘fat cat’ ambassadors on the rise — for now

November 13, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 12, 2013. Ambassador Kennedy is accompanied by her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and son, John "Jack" Schlossberg. (State Department photo)
Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Kennedy was accompanied by her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and son, John “Jack” Schlossberg. (State Department photo)

Career diplomats are looking at the most recent data on President Obama’s ambassadorial appointments and they don’t like what they see.

The career types have often grumbled about the White House’s penchant for going Hollywood or Wall Street and rewarding what critics think are clueless, fat-cat fundraisers with plum posts — even in places requiring some political dexterity.

Now, the Foreign Service folks are looking at numbers that indicate Obama may have a tough time meeting the average career vs. political percentage split  of his immediate predecessors.

As it stands,  36.5 percent of Obama’s 318 ambassadorial appointees and nominees have been political, or non-career people, according to the American Foreign Service Association.

In contrast, President Bush II’s two-term total average 30.02 percent, while President Clinton’s average was 27.82 percent, and President Bush I’s was 31.3 percent. It should be noted that Obama’s only got a handful of likely political spots left to fill — France, Finland, and a few others  – and the percentage of politicals is pretty much certain to drop before 2016 —  so there’s little cause for hyperventilation.

But it’s not clear his numbers will go down all the way to the Bush, Clinton, Bush averages, the career folks say.

In addition, the White House has been naming political folks to countries that have  more often than not gone to career diplomats. For example, 50 percent of  his appointees have been political in 10 countries where the percentages of political appointees ranged from 31 to 38 percent historically. (There was even one political appointee to Burma, which has always gone to career diplomats, but the nominee at least was uber-qualified.)

It should be noted that President Reagan ended up appointing a much higher percentage of political ambassadors than any of his successors, coming in at 38 percent, a figure that  Obama is not going to even approach.

 

 

 

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Emily Heil · November 13, 2013