Thank you for calling the Treasury Department in the Age of Obama.  Due to our neglect in appointing senior positions, no one can take your call right now. If you are calling from the offices of our G-20 allies, please press 1 and we’ll send you 25 complimentary Region 1 DVDs for your inconvenience:

He has a reputation for being the archetypal senior civil servant professional, unflappable, and, above all, discreet.

But Sir Gus O’Donnell risked sparking a transatlantic tiff today with an imprudent remark about Downing Street’s relations with the White House.

The head of the civil service, Sir Gus said the handover to President Barack Obama’s administration was severely hindering preparations for next month’s G20 summit.

In an extraordinary blunder, the usually-guarded Sir Gus said no-one in the U.S. Treasury department was answering telephone calls.

He said it meant the Government was finding it ‘unbelievably difficult’ to hold discussions ahead of the meeting of world leaders in London.

Gee, I seem to remember when Barack Obama ran on the promise of restoring relations with the rest of the world.  How’s that working out so far?  The Brits seem unimpressed in the extreme.

When we last heard from the Obama team about their peculiar handling of Gordon Brown, they claimed to be too overwhelmed and exhausted from the economic crisis to pay attention to the niceties of protocol.  The upcoming G-20 summit will focus on that very problem, aiming for coordination of action to rebuild confidence in Western financial systems.  Is Obama now too overwhelmed and exhausted to work on that crisis as well?

This problem likely stems from the failure of the Obama administration to fill senior positions at Treasury.  One might think that Geithner and Team Obama would make that a priority, especially in areas where phone calls might come from American allies looking to coordinate on policy.  Now it looks as though they still haven’t hired the receptionists.

Administrations change in Washington every four or eight years, but the bureaucracy is supposed to provide for competent continuity — in fact, it’s the only good reason for it to exist.  In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve seen a transition this disorganized, this incompetent, and this embarrassing. (via Legal Insurrection)