If you’re going to pressure another country — a close ally, no less — to make diplomatic appointments that are more to your liking than to theirs, at least have the basic good sense to do it privately, not publicly. Especially when the position isn’t vacant.
Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016
Coincidentally, Farage himself has an op-ed at Breitbart today complaining that “the [British] people have spoken [in favor of Brexit] but the players at the top have, I am afraid, stayed the same” and noting that “I would do anything to help our national interest and to help cement ties with the incoming Anglophile administration.” Trump’s trying to help his buddy get a job, same as he would if he were leaning on a contractor in Atlantic City who wanted to do business with one of Trump’s casinos, except he’s the president-elect of the United States and the “contractor” in this case is the British government. Farage isn’t some random apparatchik in the UK’s political hierarchy, either. He’s one of the Tories’ most ferocious critics and a famously fierce supporter of Brexit. Theresa May, the new prime minister, opposed Brexit. Trump nudging her to appoint Farage is a bit like May tweeting that Elizabeth Warren would make a fine ambassador to Great Britain for Trump.
One stupid thing about doing this publicly, apart from needlessly antagonizing one of America’s closest cooperators, is that it’s bound to stiffen opposition to Trump and the idea of Farage as ambassador as a matter of simple national pride. Here’s how a Labour MP reacted to Trump’s Farage boosterism today:
Many people think you should mind your own business and talk about pussy grabbing less, but hey, life is a constant disappointment https://t.co/HXprdreZ3E
— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) November 22, 2016
Brits understandably disdain the idea of the UK as a “junior partner” whose role in the “special relationship” is to do America’s bidding. Bowing to Washington on diplomatic appointments would play right into that — which would be awfully ironic, as Farage’s popularity comes from his willingness to champion British sovereignty and autonomy. No wonder the foreign ministry wasted no time in shooting it down:
Prime Minister Theresa May, who congratulated Trump on his victory, was swift to reject such an undiplomatic proposal, with a spokesman saying Britain already had an excellent ambassador to Washington and that London would appoint its own envoys.
“We have first rate ambassador in Washington,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who campaigned for Brexit, told the British parliament. “There is no vacancy for that position.”
It is highly unusual in the modern era for leaders to publicly suggest to foreign nations whom they would like to see as ambassador, though during strained relations they sometimes reject or expel envoys.
One worry every government has with diplomatic appointees is that they’ll “go native” abroad, becoming less an aggressive advocate for their home country’s interests where they’re stationed than an advocate for that country’s interests back home. Go figure that Theresa May might worry about that with an ambassador who (a) owes his job to the U.S. president’s intercession, (b) campaigned for the president during the U.S. election, and (c) said recently that he wouldn’t rule out taking a job in the president’s administration.
This isn’t the first snub Trump has directed at May or her diplomats either since the election:
Trump’s tweet is even more extraordinary for the fact that he had already embarrassed the U.K. government by speaking with nine other world leaders before taking a call from May. Then, when he and the British PM finally spoke, he declined to offer her any specific invitation to meet, saying instead, “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know.”
I remember some complaints on the right circa 2009 about Obama’s lack of politesse towards a treasured ally when he had the bust of Churchill removed from the Oval Office. And now here we are.
Enjoy two minutes of Boris Johnson and British MPs goofing on Trump’s idea in Parliament today. One MP suggests Hillary Clinton for U.S. ambassador to Britain; another recommends the “Hamilton” actor who chastised Mike Pence onstage in New York a few nights ago. Meanwhile, the best case I’ve seen for May taking Trump’s advice and appointing Farage as ambassador is this one at the Torygraph, which boils down to the idea that if cronyism is the best way to influence the new most powerful person in the world — and it obviously is — then maybe May should embrace cronyism. And hey, at least it would get Farage out of the country.