Ambassador Philip Murphy presented his credentials to the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prof. Dr. Horst Köhler on September 3 (see photos). On September 9 CQ Politics reported on his arrival in Berlin:
“Former Goldman Sachs chief Philip D. Murphy evidently arrived in the style to which he is accustomed last month to take up his new post as U.S. envoy to Germany, touching down in an ostentatious top-of-the-line executive jet that left German Chancellor Angela Merkel grinding her teeth over President Obama’s gift of ambassadorships to wealthy donors.
Sources familiar with the incident said the arrival of Murphy, his wife and four soccer-uniformed kids on what some said was a Gulfstream V executive jet came just as the German press was describing how top embassy posts in the Obama administration were going almost exclusively to wealthy campaign donors.”
C’mon folks! The next thing somebody will complain about is that large, hairy dog they brought to Berlin in a private jet.
This is all quite simple, really.
Diplomatic courtesy requires that before a state appoints a new chief of diplomatic mission to represent it in another state, it must be first ascertained whether the proposed appointee is acceptable to the receiving state. The approval of the receiving state is always sought in confidence prior to the formal nomination or appointment of the ambassador. The acquiescence of the receiving state is signified by its granting its agrément to the appointment. If the German Chancellor did not find Ambassador Murphy acceptable, her government could have simply refused to grant agrément.
Now as to that Gulfstream V executive jet – can you really blame the guy for traveling in style?
Premium class travel has been a no-no in the State Department for some years now since some apples — presidential appointees and senior executive service officials gave premium travel a rotten name. State personnel must only use coach-class airline accommodation. The use of contract air carriers offering discount fare is also mandatory. It does not matter if travel time is 9 hours going to Berlin or 29 hours with circuitous stops in four countries. To add to the fun, travel must also be on a US carrier.
There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule (this one has very few exceptions). One has to do with security and another has to do with travel by a chief of mission and accompanying eligible family members going to post for the first time or leaving from post the last time. So to my friends at AFSA Facebook, a career diplomat assuming his/her chief of mission position in a foreign capital would have arrived in business or first class, too; he/she just won’t have a plane to park in some hangar.
Besides –14 FAM 580 says that “travel on official business shall be by the method of transportation that will result in the greatest advantage to the U.S. Government, considering cost and other factors.” Unless Ambassador Murphy starts charging the USG for airplane fuel or hangar fees, this looks to me like a great arrangement. He might even start refurbishing the ambassador’s digs, too.
Between you and me – if I had a Gulfstream V, I would ditch cattle class travel, too. But my online store is not even good for buying coffee so that ditching may take some time. Still, just because I don’t have a jet doesn’t mean he shouldn’t use his jet. Frankly, I don’t care if he got to Berlin on a chariot, just as long as he does the job the President sent him to do. End of story.