President Obama Just Can’t Catch a Break

President Obama just can’t catch a break. On one side, some Obama donors are feeling left out, lamenting the lack of access to the president and other traditional perks (see Some Obama donors are feeling left out | WaPo | December 4, 2009), and at the other side, some are complaining that he’s appointing too many bundlers to positions of influence. The latest salvo came from AFSA President Susan Johnson who, according to the Guardian, accused the president of “renting out ambassador roles” (see Barack Obama accused of ‘renting out’ ambassador roles | Guardian | 29 November 2009).

The article in the Guardian says that the President has made almost 80 ambassadorial nominations, of which 56% went to political appointees. I don’t know where they got that number. Below is the breakdown of the official Chief of Mission List dated November 9, 2009 from the State Department:

172 Total

  • 102 (59%) Current career Ambassadors (includes Chief of Mission to USNATO)
  • 33 (19%) Current non-career Ambassadors (includes Chiefs of Mission to USUN, UNVIE)
  • 37 (22%) Vacant

Updated: 12/5
There is something wrong with this Chiefs of Mission List put together by the State Department’s HR office. The USNATO is actually a non-career appointee (Ambassador Daalder). Other noncareer appointees were also appointed/confirmed to USUN, OECD, OAS, AU, and USEU as of November 2009. The UNVIE appointee on the other hand is a career diplomat (Ambassador Davies), not a noncareer appointee as indicated above. This list also put down Ambassador Carlos Pascual (Mexico) as a career appointee. He was no longer in the active FS when he was appointed to the position in Mexico, so he should have been included in the non-career appointees for purposes of this breakdown. From best I could tell, there were 42 political appointees out of 172 as of end of November. Which put the percentage of political appointees currently at 24%.

Let’s see how much higher this would go by the President’s first year in office.

AFSA’s Ambassadors List is here. They have a total of 185 positions in the list and had political appointees posted at 54 or 29.2%