As reported by various news outlets, President Obama’s nominee as Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.
Heyman’s name came up as a potential nominee as far back as last April. But the post has been vacant since July of 2013, following the departure of the previous Ambassador, David Jacboson. From the CBC:
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said she was “very pleased” to see Heyman, a partner at Goldman Sachs in Chicago and a top political fundraiser for Obama, confirmed to the post.
“I think it’s pretty important that we have an ambassador to Canada when Canada is our biggest trading partner. We haven’t had one now for months. This is a very good thing,” she said.
Heyman’s Wikipedia entry is surprisingly slim. Here’s a bit more about Heyman and the issues he’ll be facing from a site called AllGov.com. The Canadian publication Embassy has several articles about Heyman and the post of U.S. Ambassador to Canada here.
Heyman made a small ripple in “isn’t that silly/isn’t that cute?” coverage last December when a discussion about North Pole territorial claims touched on if Santa Clause might be American. Heyman diplomatically called Santa “…a citizen of the world.”
On a more serious note, because Heyman is not a professional diplomat, he falls into a larger debate about patronage appointments. This Washington Post editorial (Feb 13) says the current balance is too skewed:
All presidents appoint some ambassadors who are not professional diplomats. Most have been harmless; a few have been stellar. Mr. Obama, however, has considerably stretched the boundaries of previous presidential records, both in quantity and in apparent disregard for quality. The president promised in 2009 to increase professional appointments, and the State Department said last Friday that it aims for a 70-30 split between career and political ambassadors. Yet, so far in his second term,53 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointments have been political, according to the American Foreign Service Association. A third have been fundraisers for his campaigns.
Among the recommended characteristics: Demonstrating integrity, honesty, “an appropriate measure of humility” and “the ability to inspire.” Others include possessing an understanding the public policy process and the “culture and language” of the host country, or having “other suitable international experience.”
The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa has a useful website which has yet to issue any statements on the Senate confirmation, or the arrival of the new ambassador, who must still be sworn in and present his credentials to Canada’s Governor General. The Embassy has a blog, where former Ambassador Jacobson used to post entries.
Although Heyman was largely silent during his long wait for confirmation, he will undoubtedly have more to say as he assumes that position. Here is Heyman’s first tweet following the Senate vote: “Honored to be confirmed by the Senate today as the next US Ambassador to Canada. Time to get to work!”