Hi, I'm the ambassador for... what's it called? Some nominees have never even visited their new country

President Obama's latest diplomatic crop are less than ripe

The debate over whether presidents should reward political donors and allies by making them ambassadors has flared again after a string of gaffes by President Obama's choices.

Their stumbles have highlighted the perils of rewarding funding and friendship with prestigious overseas assignments. The cases also show how a President who once infuriated donors by denying them perks has fallen into line with his predecessors.

"Being a donor to the President's campaign does not guarantee you a job in the administration, but it does not prevent you from getting one," White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week.

For decades, presidents have generally followed a "70-30" rule for such appointments, nominating career foreign service officers for roughly 70 per cent of US missions abroad and reserving the rest for political allies. Political appointees account for 37 per cent of the ambassadorships filled so far during Mr Obama's tenure, according to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). The rate for his second term so far is 53 per cent.

Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford put political supporters in about 38 per cent of their ambassador jobs. At the other end, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had about 27 per cent. George W Bush and his father George Bush Snr were at 30 and 31 per cent, respectively.

Obama administration officials say the number has been inflated by a surge of second-term openings in posts typically given to non-diplomats. However, it is a notable turnaround from Mr Obama's first year in office, when he gave only about 10 per cent of ambassadorships to political donors.

Senator John McCain, who ran against Mr Obama in the 2008 election, said that several of the recent nominees were "truly alarming". "When you put someone in an ambassador's position who hasn't even been to the country, you are rolling the dice," he said.

The nominee for ambassador to Norway prompted outrage in Oslo by characterising one of the nation's ruling parties as extremist. A prominent Obama fundraiser, nominated to be ambassador to Argentina, acknowledged that he had never set foot in the country. David Wade, chief of staff for Secretary of State John Kerry, said: "It's a strength not a stigma that an ambassador spent decades running a corporation or serving as a governor or senator. The question is the individual, not where they come from."

Recent ambassadorships have been handed to former White House and campaign aides, including Patrick Gaspard in South Africa, Rufus Gifford in Denmark and Mark Childress in Tanzania. President Obama has also nominated former deputy White House counsel Cassandra Butts to serve as chief of mission in the Bahamas.

As in past administrations, some of the non-diplomats have run into trouble. During Mr Obama's first term, political appointees in Malta, Luxembourg, Kenya and the Bahamas all resigned after management problems were exposed.

"I'm amazed at how the State Department let those people go up so unprepared," said Tom Korologos, who served as US ambassador to Belgium under George W Bush. "When I went up for confirmation as ambassador to Belgium, I knew more about Belgium than the Belgians did."

All nominees go through what is informally known as "ambassador school" and learn about the country for which they have been selected.

But there is no specific requirement that ambassadorial nominees have visited the country.

The AFSA, which represents career officers, plans to issue guidelines laying out basic qualifications.

© Washington Post

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice