Obama’s Career Ambassadorship Appointments: Highest on Record at 70.8% #ThanksObama

Posted: 1:09 am ET
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According to @Philip Arsenault who has done a lot of good work using presidential records to track the ambassadorial appointees going back to FDR, President Obama appointed to-date the highest number of career diplomats as ambassadors at 70.8%, and the lowest number of non-career political appointees at 29.2%.

The political ambassadorships during Obama’s two terms amount to 29.2% of his total appointments, which is lower than President Carter, previously the lowest on record at 30.8%.

AFSA’s ambassadorship tracker has different numbers but we’ve stopped using the group’s ambassador statistics since 2015.  See our write up on AFSA’s Ambassador Statistics here and why we find its data problematic.

 

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Senate Confirmations: Ebert-Gray, Hill, Feeley, Rubin, Scott, Chapman, Manes, Taglialatela

Posted: 12:51 am EDT
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The U.S. Senate confirmed the following executive nominations for ambassadorial posts overseas by voice vote on Wednesday, December 9. We have included below links to the confirmed nominees’ publicly available certificates of competency from state.gov:

Papua New GuineaExecutive Calendar #415 – Catherine Ebert-Gray, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.
— Ebert-Gray, Catherine – Independent State of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu – July 2015

MaltaExecutive Calendar #416 – G. Kathleen Hill, of Colorado, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Malta.
Hill G. Kathaleen – Republic of Malta – July 2015

PanamaExecutive Calendar #417 – John D. Feeley, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Panama. Feeley, John D. – Republic of Panama – July 2015

BulgariaExecutive Calendar #418 – Eric Seth Rubin, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Bulgaria.
Rubin, Eric Seth – Republic of Bulgaria – October 2015

SerbiaExecutive Calendar #419 – Kyle R. Scott, of Arizona, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Serbia.
Scott Kyle Randolph – Republic of Serbia

EcuadorExecutive Calendar #420 – Todd C. Chapman, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Ecuador.
Chapman, Todd C. – Republic of Ecuador – October 2015

El SalvadorExecutive Calendar #422 – Jean Elizabeth Manes, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador.
Manes, Jean Elizabeth – Republic of El Salvador – November 2015

Barbados+Executive Calendar #423 – Linda Swartz Taglialatela, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Barbados, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Taglialatela, Linda Swartz – Barbados and other Eastern Carribbean States – November -2015

 

Here’s a bonus tweet:

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Foreign Service Nominations: @SenatorCardin Trying to Get the Senate to “Yes”

Posted: 12:31 am EDT
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In addition to the senior nominees stuck in the Senate, there are also 4 Foreign Service lists pending on the Executive Calendar.

PN573-4 | Nominations beginning Bradley Duane Arsenault, and ending Jamshed Zuberi, which 20 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

PN643 | Nominations beginning Jennifer Ann Amos, and ending Holly Rothe Wielkoszewski, which 101 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 8, 2015.

PN877-1 | Nominations beginning Jason Douglas Kalbfleisch, and ending Stuart MacKenzie Hatcher, which 404 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 21, 2015.

PN800 | Nominations beginning Kreshnik Alikaj, and ending Brett David Ziskie, which 127 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 8, 2015.

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Obama Nominees: A Work Around the Republican Senate? Call Your Senate Besties!

Posted: 2:39 am EDT
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Politico writes that Tom Cotton, the freshman Republican senator from Arkansas has indefinitely stalled ambassadorial nominees to Sweden, Norway and the Bahamas — a former White House counsel, plus two Obama campaign bundlers — until the administration investigates the Secret Service’s misconduct.

It’s not just Cotton holding up nominations. Republican senators such as Ted Cruz, John McCain and Chuck Grassley are deploying the tactic at an unprecedented level in their ongoing war with the White House. Right now, eight ambassadorial nominees are waiting on the Senate floor to be confirmed, and more than 100 other nominations are languishing in committee.
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It’s a historic battle with the president that’s likely to continue as Obama marches toward the end of his presidency with minimal relations with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
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Faced with such resolute opposition from the GOP, there are signs that the White House isn’t eager to push more high-ranking nominees to the Senate.
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[F]or dozens of other nominees hoping to serve Obama for his last 15 months, there’s no way to work around the Republican Senate. Currently, there are about 60 nominees awaiting floor action, and more than twice that waiting for committee approval.

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The Senate did confirm a few nominees for the State Department last week (see Senate Confirmations: Tamlyn, Hawkins, Gilmour, Nolan, Alsup, Rubinstein, Amato, Mendelson), mostly career appointees.  However, the senate hold, includes not just political appointees but even midlevel career appointees snared in this logjam (see Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere).

With less than a hundred days to go, some of these nominees will potentially time out this year and would have to be renominated.  Some of those on the list have already been renominated once before, we can’t imagine they’d be willing to put their lives on hold just waiting around indefinitely.  If they do get renominated and get confirmation,  they’ll have several months on the job before they have to submit their resignation after the November 2016 presidential election.

Who wants to move household in February 2016 only to pack out and move household again in December or January 2017? This would be true particularly for political appointees but they may not care as long as they get to posts.  However, career appointees would not be exempted from this disruption either if they are destined for posts high on the wish list of the 2017 political appointees.

Career diplomats are typically allowed to serve their full tours even if there is a change of administration.  But all appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, so 2017 will be another year of embassy staffing disruption and personnel movement for top ranking career diplomats will be in the stars.

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Related post:

The Tyranny of the Timepiece : Senate Rules Obstruct Voting to a Degree that Wounds Our Government (pdf)

The Logic of Collective Inaction: Senatorial Delay in Executive Nominations, American Journal of Political Science (for fee access).

What About American Ambassadors? The Next President Will Not Nominate a Super PAC as Ambassador

Posted: 1:53 am EDT
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The 2016 presidential election is some 18 months away. Some folks who are hoping to land a gig at some of our European embassies are expecting to get busy just about now. About 2/3 of all ambassadorial appointments will go to career diplomats but about a third will still go to top supporters of the winning candidate, most of them heavy lifters when it comes to rounding up funds to help get their candidate elected.  That’s not going to end anytime soon. See list of Obama Bundlers via OpenSecrets. Click here for Obama’s ambassadors during his first term, click here for the current appointees.  Click here for George W. Bush’s Pioneer Fundraisers who got similar appointments.  @PhilipArsenault has the breakdown of appointments for both presidents, both terms here.

In any case — apparently, the not quite so rich has a new lament this election cycle. “Who needs a bundler when you have a billionaire?” One fundraiser interviewed on WaPo says“Bundlers felt they were part of the process and made a difference, and therefore were delighted to participate. But when you look at super-PAC money and the large donations that we’re seeing, the regular bundlers feel a little disenfranchised.” All that money is moving the ground under their feet, and disrupting the status of the new incarnation of rangers, pioneers, and bundlers.

It is highly unlikely that the next President of the United States will appoint Super-PACs as ambassadors to Paris, London, Madrid or Brussels, etc.. So folks, calm down! While waiting for the call, folks should gear up learning about what American ambassadors do.  Oh, interested individuals also need to figure out which posts to avoid for various reasons.  It could be that the official ambassador residence is too small, or smaller than the house the appointee is accustomed to, or too old, or needs a new roof, or new paint, or new floors, or has bad toilets (and new appointee ends up supervising repairs and all that).  So put that on the to-do list but for now, an excellent book to read is Ambassador Dennis C. Jett’s book, American Ambassadors, The Past, Present and Future of American Diplomats, because it’s delightful and informative and everyone should know what he/she is getting into.  Also mark your calendars; the author will be giving a talk on the book at AFSA on June 11th from 2:00 to 3:30 pm.  Many thanks to Ambassador Jett and Palgrave Macmillan’s Claire Smith for permission to share an excerpt from the book with our readers.

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Dennis C. Jett, American Ambassadors, Published 2014. Copyright© Dennis C. Jett, 2014 [First Published in 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan ®] reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

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On the face of it, the first ambassador for whom I worked seemed perfect for the job. If the director of a movie called up central casting and told them to send over actors to audition for a role as an ambassador, he would have been a shoo-in for the part. He had, in fact, been an actor, costarring in movies with Marlene Dietrich and Shirley Temple. He had also been a successful politician, elected to Congress twice and as governor of Connecticut. The Connecticut Turnpike is named after him.

He came from a wealthy and illustrious lineage—his family included a senator, an admiral, and another ambassador. They could trace their roots back to the pilgrims. Tall, handsome, and silver-haired, he was fluent in several languages. According to one expert on style, he was “one of the most polished gentlemen in America” for more than half a century. He was also named ambassador three times by three different presidents. In referring to him, a journalist once wrote: “If the United States could be represented around the world the way it is represented in Argentina, it would be loved by the peoples of all nations.”

In reality, the ambassador was a disaster—and a dangerous one at that. Although he seemed to some to be the perfect diplomat, those who knew him better considered him, in effect, a threat to national security. The reason for such a divergence of opinion is that there is more to being an ambassador than simply glitz and glamour.

And when it came to John Davis Lodge, there was little else.

I did not know all of that when I was assigned to Buenos Aires as my first diplomatic posting. In early 1973, I had only been in the Foreign Service for a few weeks. All newly minted Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) are introduced to the State Department through a six-week course, a kind of boot camp for bureaucrats. There the raw recruits get basic training about the government they are to represent. Toward the end of the course, the fledgling FSOs are given a list of all the postings in the world that are available for their first tour of duty. They have to decide on their preferences and then hope that the personnel system answers their prayers.

Having grown up and been educated mainly in New Mexico, where the Hispanic and Native American cultures had an influence on even a transplanted Northeasterner like me, I decided Latin America would be my first choice. Because Argentina seemed the most exotic of the possibilities in the southern hemisphere, that country was at the top of my list. As luck would have it, none of my peers ranked it as high, so the job was mine. But first I had to take additional training, including learning Spanish.

It was then that I came across an article in the Washington Post about Lodge written by Lewis Diuguid, the paper’s Latin American correspondent. In essence, the article said that Lodge was all style and no substance; dinners at the elegant ambassadorial residence inevitably dissolved into songfests, with Lodge belting out his favorite tunes from Broadway shows. The article claimed that Lodge kept four staff members in the embassy’s information section engaged full time in trying to get the local press to run photos and articles about his latest social activities.

Diuguid implied that Lodge’s desire to appear in the newspapers did not extend beyond photographs and the society pages. The article went on to quote anonymous sources, who said a serious conversation with Lodge was impossible and that if anyone had any real business to conduct with the embassy, they went to see the deputy chief of mission, the number two person in any embassy and one who is always a career diplomat.

As I read the article, I found it hard to believe it was not grossly exaggerated. I wondered how someone in such an exalted position could be such an apparent lightweight. A few weeks after arriving in Buenos Aires, I had the opportunity to witness Lodge in action. He gave a large formal dinner at the residence for a visiting official from Washington. It was not a social occasion but rather an important opportunity to gather impressions on how the new government would conduct itself. One big question was whether Peronist officials would even come to the dinner. It was feared they might not if hostility toward the United States was going to again be one of Peron’s policies.

The evening unfolded, however, as if the Diuguid article had scripted the event. At the end of the sumptuous meal, as coffee and dessert were being served, Lodge called over an accordionist who had been providing soft background music. With this accompaniment, he burst into song while still seated at the table and rolled off a number of tunes. We all then adjourned to the ballroom, where he continued the entertainment. Among his favorite Argentine guests was a couple whom he summoned to join him at the grand piano. While the husband played, the wife and Lodge sang duets from Porgy and Bess and other Broadway hits.

As the show dragged on, the Peronist officials signaled they wanted to talk to the visiting official and the deputy chief of mission privately, so they all slipped off to the library. The Peronists made it clear that the new government would be open to a constructive and productive relationship with the United States, unlike in the past. This was a significant shift in policy that would be welcomed in Washington.

Finally, after the songfest, the guests began bidding the Lodges good night and thanking them profusely for the evening. The embassy staff members were always the last to leave; it was customary to stay until dismissed by the ambassador. As we waited for this to happen, Lodge learned of the discussion that had taken place in the library while he was singing in the ballroom. He became furious at his deputy, ranting that he had been stabbed in the back before but never in his own home. Unmoved by the success of the discussions, Lodge continued to berate the poor man in front of all of us. That evening I learned an important lesson: a country is not well served by an ambassador who thinks entertaining is the most important of his duties.

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Also read Selling Ambassadorships Is as American as Apple Pie (HuffPo)U.S. Embassies Have Always Been for Sale (Daily Beast) and Peter Van Buren’s review, American Ambassadors, The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Diplomats (HuffPo).