One of the plums available to political donors, at least, at the nosebleed level, is the ambassadorship. Not to a hardship post like Burkina Faso or a country lacking in all mod cons, like Guyana, or even to an impoverished old dowager like Bolivia. And certainly not to a country where ambassadors get whacked, like Afghanistan or Pakistan. But to a country with a good symphony, and a 72-room ambassadorial residence full of liveried servants, like the Czech Republic, or a country that you dimly remember hearing of while checking the boxes at Pater’s old prep school, such as Belgium or (for the three-generation legacies) France. Those ambassadorships are traditionally for sale, although the “diplomatic protocol” is to cloak the transactional nature of the assignments in diplomatic — what other kind would be fitting? — euphemism.
The New York Times is losing its mind in general over the incoming Trump administration — but one of its wailings and gnashings stems from the plight of those poor, impoverished megamillionaire donors, who, alas! have to leave their plum ambassadorships because their boy was term limited out, and his chosen successor, who might have retained them for some weeks or months, or longer with the right Global Initiative donation, didn’t rise to the throne after all. To put it in the language of diplomacy, Quel horreur!
Of course, French is also the language of l’amour, and the moneybags feel like they just got amoured without getting kissed. So they take to the Times, the Newspaper of Record for Wealthy Manhattanites and Those Who Wish They Were, and describe how twaumatizing the whole thing has been to a sympathetic reporter or three:
Mr. Trump… has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20 with a mission of dismantling many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements. “Political” ambassadors, many of them major donors who are nominated by virtue of close ties with the president, almost always leave at the end of his term; ambassadors who are career diplomats often remain in their posts.
But these Unique and Special Snowflakes™ are entitled, you see.
The directive has nonetheless upended the personal lives of many ambassadors, who are scrambling to secure living arrangements and acquire visas allowing them to remain in their countries so their children can remain in school, the diplomats said.
In Costa Rica, Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney is hunting for a house or an apartment as his family — which includes four school-age children and his wife, who has been battling breast cancer — struggles to figure out how to avoid a move back to the United States with five months left in the school year, according to the diplomats.
A man with three last names. What odds his family tree looks like a poplar, and his chin, if he has one, is an implant? Waaaah! Gotta move in mid-schoolyear. Welcome to the soldier’s world, or one small aspect of it, Stafford old boy, not to mention normal life for anyone working for a large and widespread firm, who doesn’t have the good fortune to be in the golden-parachute blocks on the org chart.
You’re breakin’ our heart. Take two listens to Gloomy Sunday, and do what the song is famous for:
We kept expecting the story to break into what it really is: comic relief. But they don’t get their own joke, and the Times doesn’t lighten up at all, as one megamillionaire after another whines and whinges:
In the Czech Republic, they said, Ambassador Andrew H. Schapiro is seeking housing in Prague as well as lobbying his children’s Chicago-based school to break with policy and accept them back midyear.
He doesn’t want to give up his .gov-paid 72 rooms, and more servants than George III had. But it’s all about his precious spawn — riiiiight. We’re sure that generation of Schapiros will produce
a cure for cancer more entitled, spoiled moneybags who are only fit to be ambassadors-to-a-place-where-the-ambassador-isn’t-critical.
In Brussels and Geneva, Denise Bauer, the United States ambassador to Belgium, and Pamela Hamamoto, the permanent representative to the United Nations, are both trying to find a way to keep daughters from having to move just months before their high school graduation.
These people had millions to give to the Obama and Clinton campaigns. If they can’t bear to come back to the America that elected Mr Trump, and it seems like they can’t, they can do what millions of Americans do every day and rent a freaking apartment. And if the nation won’t give them a visa, however unlikely that is? They can do like millions of Mexicans, and sponge off their host nation as illegal aliens.
They’re still breakin’ our heart (severely NSFW):
The President (outgoing) had a soirée for these high-end welfareniks:
At a White House farewell reception that Mr. Obama held on Wednesday night for noncareer ambassadors, many of them commiserated, attendees said, comparing notes about how to handle the situation.
At which the named individuals unburdened themselves to the crack Times reporting team. And others sniveled that this means, egads! The End of Diplomacy™!
W. Robert Pearson, a former ambassador to Turkey and a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the rule was “quite extraordinary,” adding that it could undermine American interests and signal a hasty change in direction that exacerbates jitters among allies about their relationships with the new administration. …
In fact, no diplomacy is going to end because these figureheads give up their mansions, motorcades, and minions. In nations with rich, connected inbreeds in diplomatic posts, the actual diplomacy is carried by down-ticket Embassy staffers who are career diplomats, especially the #2 guy or girl, normally titled Chargé d’Affaires. While the Chargé is nominally #2, and the State Department is nothing if not protocol-bound, one of his or her major responsibilities is keeping the donor-Ambassador from stepping on the national reproductive tackle. The donor-Ambassador seldom knows the language of the nation in question, let alone the first thing about the nation, its issues, or its historic and current relations with the United States. The donor-Ambassador may have run a business, or at least had a big office, before. But he or she has never run an Embassy; has never had to deal with a embedded CIA Chief of Station; has never dealt with foreign press who operate under different expectations and laws than their US counterparts; doesn’t know what the consular staff does and what the GSA officers do. All these fields of ignorance are kept from blowing up relations by the career Foreign Service Officers on staff, and generally, they can do it better when not babysitting some jerk whose only quaification is having given his and his friends’ inherited wealth to a political campaign (often in a conditional quid pro quo for the Ambassador gig).
Sure, they’re Ambassadors, but they’re hollow figureheads — Potemkin Ambassadors. And that is not a partisan issue, both parties produce these drones in profusion, depending on who’s got the keys to the White House.
The Times’s meltdown isn’t just over the State Department’s nosebleed-rich Potemkin Ambassadors. They’re also flipping out over other Trump appointments, like Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. Because he advocated for the death penalty for rebarbative murderers, they call Sessions the Grim Reaper of Alabama; he will replace AG Loretta Lynch, who with her predecessor Eric Holder generally favored criminals, including murderers, over victims.
Hat tip: Elizabeth Harrington at the Washington Free Beacon, who has some of the details of the perks these .001%er Ambassadors don’t want to let go of, and of what they paid to buy their posts, and did to get their money (mostly, inherit it, or shuffle other moneychangers’ gelt on Wall Street, although one was a CBS producer).