Hôtel Rothschild: The Ambassador’s Residence Built by a Child Bride With a Story Worthy of An Opera

Posted: 3:15 am ET

 

The Hôtel Rothschild (also known as the Hôtel de Pontalba) the American Ambassador’s residence in Paris is one of the thirty-three properties in the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property. The Register founded in 2000 as a White House Millennium Project, is similar to the National Register of Historic Places that is maintained by the Secretary of the Interior for domestic U.S. properties. It is an honorific listing of important diplomatic overseas architecture and property that figure prominently in our country’s international heritage.  The residence was built by an American, Micaela Almonester Pontalba whose life is the subject of Thea Musgrave‘s 2003 opera, Pontalba: a Louisiana Legacy which is based on Christina Vella’s biography of Micaela, Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of the Baroness Pontalba.

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Below via State/OBO:

No stronger tie between the U.S. and France exists than the U.S. Ambassador’s residence at No. 41 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, built by an American, Micaela Almonester Pontalba, who was born in New Orleans in 1795. An arranged marriage for a merger of fortunes brought her to France at sixteen years of age. Separated in 1831, but loving Paris, she bought on this site in 1836 one of the most famous d’Aguesseau houses in the city. After a visit to New Orleans, the newly-divorced baroness returned to Paris in 1838, demolished the house, and commissioned the architect Visconti to design a new one for the site. In 1845 she returned to New Orleans, where she built two monumental blocks of houses surrounding the church her father, Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, had funded on the now famous Jackson Square. Her monogram “AP,” designed by her youngest son Gaston, is still prominent on the wrought iron balustrades of the city’s most celebrated landmarks.

Baroness Pontalba returned to Paris and built the residence between 1852 and 1855. In her quest for grandeur she bought the state­ ly home of the Havré family and installed its treasures in her new home. Among the most famous of these were the chinoiserie pan­ els in one room that became the talk of Paris. The nineteenth century facade is defined by the famous local buff limestone, a slate mansard roof with dormers, and œil de bœuf lunettes. Her former husband, who had suffered a physical and mental breakdown, was waiting for her when she returned from New Orleans and asked her to take over and manage his affairs, which she did until her death in 1874. According to the Baroness’ wishes, the residence passed to her sons to provide pensions for her grandchildren.

In 1876 the Pontalba sons sold the residence to Edmond de Rothschild, one of the brothers managing the famous Rothschild family banking empire. With architect Félix Langlais, the facade was remodeled, roofline raised, and wings extended. The basic original floor plan was maintained and remains today as the entry hall, along with three salons that were adjusted in size but still overlook an expansive garden, one of the largest in Paris. In the main salon, now known as the Samuel Bernard Salon, Rothschild installed intricately carved paneling from the Left Bank home of Jacques-Samuel Bernard.

In 1934 Maurice de Rothschild inherited the residence from his father Edmond, who had sent many of its valuable items to his son James, owner of the palatial Waddesdon Manor in England. World War II disrupted the elder Rothschild’s ambitious renovation projects for the residence. The family fled Paris as the Nazis moved in, and Hermann Göring used the mansion for his Luftwaffe
offi­cers’ club. The residence was never again to be a strictly private home. After the war, the Allies rented it for three years, and in 1948 the United States purchased No. 41 for the U.S Information Services, USIS. The residence became one of the buildings occupied by individuals working on the Marshall Plan as Averell Harriman began this important endeavor. Prior to this purchase many of the valuable panels in the rooms and other architectural elements had been removed by Maurice Rothschild.

And here you go, the chief of mission residence (CMR) dressed up during various occasions:

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U.S. Diplomacy Center: Baseball Autographed by Russian Human Rights Activists

Posted: 12:41 am ET

 

The U.S. Diplomacy Center was in the news recently with the opening of the Clinton Pavillion. Note that the U.S. Diplomacy Center is actively seeking artifacts that represent American diplomacy and the work of the U.S. Department of State. These artifacts can come from a variety of individuals and sources. Anyone currently or previously working in a diplomatic capacity might have objects that could be a good fit for the center’s collection. If you have items you might be interested in donating, please contact the center for more information.

As an example of a good artifact, here is a clip of Foreign Service Officer Kevin Covert who shares the powerful story behind an artifact he loaned to USDC, a baseball autographed by Russian human rights activists.  Via USDC:

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Request For the Formal Resignations of All Chiefs of U.S. Diplomatic Missions Overseas

Posted: 2:33  am ET

 

On November 15, 1944, Robert M. Scotten, a career Foreign Service Officer serving as U.S. minister to the Dominican Republic, submitted his resignation to President Roosevelt “in accordance with traditional usage” according to The Text Message blog of the National Archives.  Upon receipt, FDR sent a copy of the letter to Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles requesting preparation of a response for the President’s signature.[2]

The Under Secretary sent the draft to the President under cover of a letter that read, in part:

 It had been my understanding that during your Administration you have not expected chiefs of mission who have been promoted by you from the ranks of the Foreign Service to present their resignations before the commencement of your new term of office.  In 1936, and again in recent weeks, I have told certain chiefs of mission who come within this category that that is my understanding.

In that belief I have drafted a reply for you to send to Scotten along these lines.

If I am mistaken in this understanding, will you let me know accordingly?[4]

President Roosevelt responded with the following long memorandum:[5]

Memorandum from President Franklin Roosevelt to Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, November 22, 1940 via The Text Message blog

Continue reading, “In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in US Diplomatic Representation Abroad after the Election of 1940.

According to The Text Message blog, a similar directive went out after the election of 1944. The Under Secretary of State Edward Stettinius asked President Roosevelt if he wanted to follow the same practice and FDR “said he thought it would be wise.” As a result, the Department of State sent the following telegram:[1]

121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944 Via The Text Message

121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944 Via The Text Message

Also see “In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in U.S. Diplomatic Representation Abroad After the Election of 1944

The  formal resignations by chiefs of mission has been the practice after every presidential election.  We understand that a similar cable goes out even when there is a second presidential term.  We are curious if the language of this cable has changed through the years.  We will update if we are able to locate a copy of the current directive.

 

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Will Rex #Tillerson Get to Pick His Deputies For the State Department?

Posted: 3:58 am ET

 

History.state.gov notes that Congress created the position of Deputy Secretary of State in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972, approved Jul 13, 1972 (Public Law 92-352; 86 Stat 490), to replace the Under Secretary of State as the second ranking officer in the Department. The Deputy Secretary (D) serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary’s absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department. The Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR) serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department. The D/MR also serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department as well as provides final recommendations to the Secretary on senior personnel appointments.

Lawrence Eagleburger is the only career diplomat ever appointed the top-ranking post in the US Cabinet. He became Secretary of State on December 8, 1992, and continued in that position until January 19, 1993 when Warren Christopher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1993.

A former assistant secretary of state under President Bush told the NYT, “So much of the operational work is in the jurisdiction of the deputy and helps to have somebody who knows how the building works, and it will make the secretary more effective.”  In the last 27 years, only three career diplomats were ever appointed Deputy Secretary of State: Lawrence Eagleburger, John Negroponte and William Burns. Note that both Rice and Clinton picked noncareer deputies at the first half of their tenures and then picked seasoned foreign service officers for the second half of their stints at State. Secretary Baker recognized the value of having a career diplomat as second in command and picked Eagleburger from the get go. Secretary Kerry could have picked a new deputy, but opted instead to keep career ambassador Bill Burns who was appointed deputy under Clinton.

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UN Amb Samantha Power Refers to the “Genocide Denial Against the Armenians” in Elie Wiesel Tribute

Posted: 1:29  pm PT
Updated: Dec 7, 9:01 am PT

 

Excerpt from Ambassador Power’s statement, as delivered:

“… How cruel was it, then, that young Elie Wiesel, who was taunted by his perpetrators that nobody would ever know or care what had happened to him and his people, how cruel was it that he encountered a world that again didn’t seem to care what he had gone through. When he was hawking that manuscript, did he feel somehow like Moshe the Beadle, a man who possessed the truth, but was ignored?

And yet none of this appears to have tamed the determination – or even the spark and sparkle – in and of Elie Wiesel. Night of course did eventually find its publishers and after several years, its readership did begin to grow, at first gradually, and then exponentially. Indeed, arguably no single work did so much to puncture the silence that had previously enveloped survivors, and bring what happened in the Night out into the light, for all to see. And yet. Injustice was still all around. Genocide denial against the Armenians, the horrors of his lifetime – Pol Pot, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria, in his later years. He lived to see more and more people bear witness to unspeakable atrocities, but he also saw indifference remained too widespread.”

We should note that Ambassador John M. Evans, a career diplomat who was appointed to Armenia from 2004-2006 lost his job during the Bush II administration after calling the Armenian killings a genocide.  In the waning days of the Obama Administration, we doubt if any reference to the Armenian Genocide as she did here in her tribute to Elie Weisel would make a difference career-wise. She will  leave her post on/around January 20, so it’s not like they’re going to fire her between now and then. Also, that’s a public speech she delivered, which means it has been through a clearance process, and not an accidental or even rogue reference.

For folks who want to read about the Armenian Genocide, also known as the “Events of 2016 1915,” the place to start is the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) from history.state.gov: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1915, Supplement, The World War  > Page 981

Click here for Samantha Power and what she said about the Armenian Genocide back in 2008 when she was campaigning for then candidate, Barack Obama. Ambassador Power is also the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” published in 2003.

Turkey has been there many times before, of course, below are some sample reactions just from 2016 alone:

 

 

Related items:

Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1915, Supplement, The World War  > Page 981

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power

1915 Armenian Genocide — The “G” Word as a Huge Landmine, and Diplomatic Equities (April 2015)

John M. Evans: The diplomat who called the “Events of 1915” a genocide, and was canned for it (Aril 2015)

$4.2 million to dispute a single word (August 2009)

Obama Nominates Career Diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis — First Ambassador to Cuba Since 1960

Posted: 1:12 pm ET

 

On September 27, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years:

President Obama said, “Today, I am proud to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years. Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries. There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba than Jeff.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Jeff has extensive experience in Cuba and Latin America.  He has served as our Chief of Mission in Havana since August 2014, and was posted to Havana twice before.  Jeff is already working with Cuba on issues that advance U.S. national interests, such as law enforcement, counternarcotics, environmental protection, combatting trafficking in persons, expanding commercial and agricultural opportunities, and cooperation in science and health.  He engages broadly with the Cuban people and expresses the United States’ strong support for universal values and human rights in Cuba.  Jeff also has extensive experience working with the United Nations.  During his most recent service at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations he served for three years as Ambassador, Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs.  Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government.  He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador.  If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.

The WH released the following bio of the nominee:

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, a position he has held since 2015.  He served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba from 2014 to 2015.  Prior to that, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Ambassador and Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 2011 to 2014.  Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Ambassador DeLaurentis was previously Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Since beginning his State Department career in 1991, Ambassador DeLaurentis has served in a number of overseas posts, including twice before in Havana, first as consular officer from 1991 to 1993, then as Political-Economic Section Chief from 1999 to 2002.  He also served as Political Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.  In Washington, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council, and as an International Relations Officer in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.  Prior to entering the Foreign Service, he held a senior staff position at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Ambassador DeLaurentis received a B.S. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an M.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

According to history.state.gov, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power following the defeat of Spain in 1898, until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902. On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba.  Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba. He served until December 2, 1905.

Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador. He served until May 28, 1927.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

On September 1, 1977, the United States established an Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy.  On July 20, 2015, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations when both countries elevated their respective Interests Sections to Embassy status. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to the date for these actions in an exchange of letters dated June 30, 2015.

Between 1977 to 2015, 14 principal officers served at the Interest Section in Havana, including Ambassador DeLaurentis whose position was elevated to Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on July 20, 2015 when diplomatic relations were restored.

The last Senate-confirmed ambassador prior to the break in diplomatic relations was Philip Wilson Bonsal (1903–1995). He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from March 3, 1959–October 28, 1960.   Daniel McCoy Braddock (1906–1980) served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim until January 1961.

So if/when the Senate considers Ambassador DeLaurentis’ nomination, it will be the first time that they’ll do so since 1960.

 

Notable reactions, some with consequences to the confirmation of this nomination in the U.S. Senate.

 

Related Posts:

A Shared Love For Jazz: Kyrgyz Republic’s Jazz Band ‘Salt Peanuts’ Performs at the Kennedy Center

Posted: 12:06 am ET

 

The Republic of Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. The United States recognized Kyrgyzstan’s independence on December 25, 1991. Diplomatic relations were also established on December 25, 1991, when President George H.W. Bush announced the decision in an address to the nation regarding the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The American Embassy in Bishkek was established on February 1, 1992, with Edmund McWilliams as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

This year, the Kyrgyz Republic celebrates its 25th Independence Day and 25 year of diplomatic relations with the United States. Below is Kyrgyz’s Salt Peanuts performing at the Kennedy Center on September 10. A shared love for jazz, have a listen — they’re awesome!

 

 

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President Obama Makes Historic Visit to Hiroshima, Now For the Trillion Dollar Question

Posted: 11:45 pm ET

 

 

President Obama Pays Tribute to Argentina’s Dirty War Victims, Also Remembers USG Diplomats

Posted: 4:09 am EDT

 

President Obama and President Macri at the Parque de la Memoria paying tribute to Argentina’s Dirty War victims.

It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about the darker parts of its past.  Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people — that can be divisive and frustrating.  But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

Today, we also commemorate those who fought side-by-side with Argentinians for human rights.  The scientists who answered the call from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to help identify victims in Argentina and around the world.  The journalists, like Bob Cox, who bravely reported on human rights abuses despite threats to them and their families.

The diplomats, like Tex Harris, who worked in the U.S. Embassy here to document human rights abuses and identify the disappeared.  And like Patt Derian, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for President Jimmy Carter — a President who understood that human rights is a fundamental element of foreign policy.  That understanding is something that has influenced the way we strive to conduct ourselves in the world ever since.

 

 

Why did the State Dept add Albright, Powell, and Rice to email saga — for dramatic tension?

Posted: 2:53 am EDT

 

Last August, we did a timeline of the Clinton email controversy (See Clinton Email Controversy Needs Its Own Cable Channel, For Now, a Timeline).  Also @StateDept Officials on Clinton Private Email Debacle: Yo! Had Been Caught Off Guard? Ay, Caramba!

To recall, this report from WaPo:

But State Department officials provided new information Tuesday that undercuts Clinton’s characterization. They said the request was not simply about general rec­ord-keeping but was prompted entirely by the discovery that Clinton had exclusively used a private e-mail system. They also said they *first contacted her in the summer of 2014, at least three months before **the agency asked Clinton and three of her predecessors to provide their e-mails.

At that time, we wrote this:

If the State Department had first contacted her in the summer of 2014, we have yet to see that correspondence. It was potentially sent sometime in August 2014, three months before the letters to Clinton and predecessors went out in November 12, 2014 from “M” (see below).  Three months is an early call?  C’mon! Secretary Clinton left State in February 2013.
[…]
It took six months for three senior State Department officials to tell WaPo that they “had been caught off guard” by the secretary of state’s exclusive use of a private account?  These officials “were concerned by the practice”, so much so that they issued a three month-“early call” in the summer of 2014, 1 year and 6 months after the end of the Clinton tenure.  And we’re only hearing about this concern now, 2 years and 7 months after Secretary Clinton left office?

Well, now we have an email (released via Judicial Watch due to FOIA litigation) from Cheryl Mills to Secretary Kerry’s Chief of Staff David Wade dated August 22, 2014 citing a request made in July 2014 about getting hard copies of the Clinton emails to/from accounts ending in .gov during her tenure at the State Department.  The email was cc’ed to Philippe Raines (former Public Affairs DAS), and Deputy Legal Adviser Richard Visek.

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So it looks like four months after the original request for the emails was made by Secretary Kerry’s chief of staff, the Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy sent a Letter to Hilary Clinton’s representative, Cheryl Mills re: the Federal Records Act of 1950, dated November 12, 2014; to Colin Powell, to Condoleezza Rice; to Madeleine Albright saying in part:

The Department of State has a longstanding and continujng commitment to preserving the history of U.S. diplomacy, established in authorities under the Federal Records Act of 1950. l am writing to you, the representative of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as to representatives of other fonner Secretaries (principals), to request your assistance in further meeting this requirement.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for photo at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center with former Secretaries of State Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III, Madeleine K. Albright, Colin L. Powell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 3, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

On March 3, 2015, four months after the Kennedy letter was sent to Mills and eight months after the original request was made by Kerry’s chief of staff to Mills, then deputy spokesperson of the State Department, Marie Harf also said this from the podium:

MS. HARF: … When in the process of updating our records management – this is something that’s sort of ongoing given technology and the changes – we reached out to all of the former secretaries of state to ask them to provide any records they had. Secretary Clinton sent back 55,000 pages of documents to the State Department very shortly after we sent the letter to her. She was the only former Secretary of State who sent documents back in to this request. These 55,000 pages covered her time, the breadth of her time at the State Department.

No mention that the original request was specific to Secretary Clinton.

And the three previous secretaries of state were added here to what … enhance dramatic tension? Oy!

The letter asks for “any records.” Why did they stop at Colin Powell and did not include James Baker, heck why not go all the way to Henry Kissinger, which by the way, would have made the National Security Archive really happy (see The State Department Kissinger Telcons: The Story of a FOIA Request).

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