I’m guessing that if you suggested to either President Trump or former President Barack Obama that they had something in common they would bristle at the idea. And for the most part they obviously don’t. But the Daily Caller has identified one hobby which they share and it’s not really one of the more flattering ones.
President Trump has made a big deal out of finding highly qualified people to nominate for important cabinet positions and judicial placements. For the most part that’s been an effective effort, particularly when you look at Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Neil Gorsuch and others. But much like his predecessor, not all of Donald Trump’s picks for ambassador assignments have been as sterling.
There is at least one tradition of the “swamp” that President Donald Trump is keeping alive — giving cushy ambassadorships to donors and well-connected politicos.
President Trump has nominated career foreign service officers to ambassadorships in places like Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Guatemala, but just like in past administrations a select few are eligible to be picked to represent the U.S. in the United Kingdom or Singapore.
The Daily Caller went through a list of 48 individuals selected for ambassadorships and 27 of the them are political appointees. These nominees include major donors like Kelly Knight Craft, who was recently confirmed by the Senate to become ambassador to Canada, and Callista Gingrich, wife of prominent Trump supporter Newt Gingrich, who was nominated to be ambassador to the Holy See.
Political appointments for 27 out of 48 is a pretty heavy load, but not all that unusual I’m sad to say. In addition to Craft and Gingrich, there are quite a few more on the list. Doug Manchester is a real estate developer and big Trump fundraiser. He’s also been nominated to be the Ambassador to the Bahamas which sounds really nice if there are no hurricanes coming through. Sharon Day got the spot in Costa Rica for being an RNC stalwart. William Francis Hagerty IV is a hedge fund guy and GOP donor who wound up as Ambassador to Japan, which is also lovely this time of year. The list goes on.
Of course, Barack Obama had a list of famous clunkers himself. Among the less well known was Nicole Avant who was also the Ambassador to the Bahamas. (What is it about that office that it’s become basically a reward for the well placed regardless of qualifications?) Avant was eventually the subject of a State Department report which cited her for frequent, needless government travel and not showing up to the office at the Embassy very often. You can browse through all of Obama’s ambassador appointments here and find plenty of other doozies.
How much should we worry about this? In a variety of cases we don’t do all that much business of import or global impact with some countries on the list. If the person assigned manages to keep the embassy staffed with relatively competent people to handle any questions or issues for ex-pats it will generally work out okay. But some countries require a lot of “handling” to keep things running smoothly and sometimes the only immediate path of communications with Washington is through the ambassador. Those spots could use a bit more attention, particularly for our key allies.
You know.. like Great Britain. That’s why we’ve got the owner of the New York Jets in that spot.