Help wanted to fill a current vacancy. Diplomatic experience and fluency in French are helpful, but not necessary for major campaign fundraisers. Must be willing to relocate to Ottawa, extensive travel required.
When U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson was departing his post in early July, I cited media reports that President Obama planned to nominate Chicago financial executive Bruce Heyman as his replacement. (Nominations are just that, senate approval is necessary to gain appointment.)
Well, that needs an update. Ambassador Jacobson is gone and there’s still no firm notion of who may be tapped for that fairly important post. According to this July 5 article for Postmedia News by William Marsden, the initial response to a Heyman nomination was underwhelming. Also, some sources suggest Heyman may not really want the job, which could require considerable re-shuffling of his own holdings and investments to avoid potential conflicts of interest. (There are a host of reasons nominations fizzle out or get derailed – including the considerable hassel and uncertainty of the approval process.)
Marsden is following the story and reports that the U.S. State Department has no reply to questions about when Canada might expect a nomination, let alone an actual ambassador.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill is circulating a new name: Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, though supposedly she would have preferred a post in England or France instead. And why report on mere rumors? Well, sometimes buzz is just that. And sometimes the circulating rumor stage is part of the trial balloon process, to gauge reaction before official nominations are made.
In this July 31st update, Marsden examines the percentage of political verses diplomatic appointments. While some presidents feel practically obliged to award ambassadorships as patronage prizes, not surprisingly, American Foreign Service Association disapproves of that common practice. As Marsden wrote:
The AFSA suggests one alternative: appoint a career diplomat who can speak both English and French, as the U.S. Foreign Service Act requires.
Ambassador nominations, the act states, “should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief of mission, including … useful knowledge of the language … and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country.”
It also states “contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor.”
You can see the American Foreign Service Association’s list of current political verses career appointments here.
There’s a lot to be said for professional training and experience. Still, it seems entirely possible to me that good (or poor) performance can be found among political or career appointments. Ability and enthusiasm should weigh heavily, from either background. In some instances observers see value in an appointment that highlights fame or prestige, as is reportedly a factor in the nomination of Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan (still to be confirmed).
Meanwhile, it does seem odd that this vacancy is not sewn up at a time of fairly important issues, from border security to the Keystone XL pipeline decision.
What kind of person would you like to see named to this post?