It is time to confront the rumors swirling around Spoiler Alerts after yesterday’s post about serving in the Trump administration: I can neither confirm nor deny that I am under consideration to be the next U.S. ambassador to France. The Post’s appointment tracker shows no nominee has been announced for this position. I should not comment beyond making that observation.
I bring this up because of the tale of Ted Malloch. Who is Ted Malloch? That’s a still a bit unclear. Back in February, Newsweek described him as a “U.K.-based political scientist and former diplomat,” but the Financial Times characterized him as a professor of business ethics who had greatly exaggerated his credentials. Malloch’s personal website describes him as, “Chairman and CEO of The Global Fiduciary Governance LLC, a leading strategy thought leadership company,” which is pretty interesting to someone who has been writing about thought leadership as of late. The bio goes on to note that, “Malloch conceptualizes and executes some of today’s most dynamic international projects,” which sounds super-interesting.
[Side note: I also cannot confirm or deny that I might be nominated to be the U.S. representative to the OECD, which, by the by, is also headquartered in Paris and has no current nominee.]
Malloch matters because for the past four months or so he has been rumored to be the Trump administration’s preferred choice as the next U.S. ambassador to the European Union. That was why he was profiled in Newsweek in the first place. He was also quite eager to go on British television to talk about President Trump’s approach to the European Union. Indeed, back in January, he explicitly compared the E.U. to the Soviet Union:
The rumors surrounding Malloch’s appointment were pretty strong. He received favorable coverage in all the right places for a Trump appointee, by which I mean Russia Today and Breitbart. An awful lot of members of the European Parliament took the rumors seriously enough to implore the European Commission and European Council to protest the possible appointment.
As recently as two days ago, Malloch was still being treated in Europe as the front-runner for the position, even though no announcement had been made:
After four months of rumors, however, the Wall Street Journal’s Drew Hinshaw, Laurence Norman and Felicia Schwartz report the most extraordinary version of “never mind” I’ve seen in diplomatic circles: “The State Department said this week that Mr. Malloch isn’t a candidate for the ambassadorship. A White House official said Mr. Malloch never was under consideration.”
This news is a bit surprising, since the rumors were loud enough for E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to bring up Malloch’s name twice to U.S. officials in February. She told both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Pence that Malloch would be a problematic choice. In response, the Journal story noted, “She was told that no decision on a new ambassador had been taken, according to a senior E.U. official. No further information was ever communicated.”
[Additional side note: I’ve heard some rumors on the Internet that I might also be considered as the nominee for U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas. It would be reckless and irresponsible for me to comment on these rumors.]
This raises a pretty important question: If Malloch was never under consideration, how did these rumors manage to sustain themselves for four months? Let’s go to the Journal story again!
The State Department — the normal point of contact for foreign governments — has often been sidelined in both decision-making and public communication, officials say.
In that void, countries like Poland say they’re turning to outside sources on Mr. Trump’s thinking. Sometimes those people do indeed have close links to the White House. Other times, not so much.
Mr. Malloch told reporters in Brussels he had interviewed twice for the position at Trump Towers and maintained close contacts in the White House.
He acknowledged he had not yet been nominated for anything but said the White House would eventually release a public announcement on the position: “I frankly thought this would come to fruition months ago,” he said. “But I don’t control that schedule.”
A White House official said Mr. Malloch was never in consideration for any post, and never served in any capacity for the campaign.
Given that Malloch has embellished his accomplishments in the past, it would be reasonable to infer he has done something similar now. The Financial Times notes that Malloch hired a publicist to promote himself after the November election, which jibes with this argument.
Malloch is not the first person to claim a connection with the Trump campaign and/or administration that turned out to be overhyped. As Julia Ioffe noted last summer in Politico, Carter Page seemed delighted to trade in on his association with Trump’s campaign in his forays into Russia. And earlier this month, noted plagiarist and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced that he had accepted a position at the Department of Homeland Security — even though DHS would not confirm it. Now Clarke claims that he doesn’t know if he has a job or not. It sure seems that: a) the Trump administration excels at attracting people of dubious merit who have inflated their résumés, and b) it takes a long time for Trump administration officials to deflate these self-inflated trial balloons.
The problem isn’t with the Mallochs or Clarkes of the world — there are always hucksters, self-promoters and con artists who will try to give the impression that they are something that they are not. No, the problem is with this administration not swatting down these kinds of rumors when they first percolate. The Malloch case merely illustrates the desperation foreign governments are facing in trying to understand this administration’s foreign policy.
And, again, just to conclude, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the rumors of me being the first human representative to the Klingon Empire.
Take it up with the State Department. I’m sure they will get around to it by August — of 2018.