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Friday Feedback

Each week, I’m going to try to present some of the better comments to stories and posts:

Fund-raiser Ambassadors: Peter Bridges, the U.S. ambassador to Somalia from 1984 to 1986, had this response to my Politico column that on President Obama’s choice of fund-raisers as ambassadors, continuing a practice that has been criticized as cronyism.

He wrote, “”Fundraiser ambassadors” may be worth something to the party that sends them but the diplomatic spoils system which the United States continues to operate–alone among major countries–is a national shame.

“”Section 304 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, the basic legislation behind our diplomatic machine, states explicitly that ambassadorial appointments should normally be given to career Foreign Service officers. Unfortunately neither of our major parties chooses to chastise the other for ignoring this, as each does when in power.

“Ted Johnson’s article quotes Bruce Gelb, the head of the Council of American Ambassadors, without making clear that this is a club of former political appointees. Gelb’s argument that a political appointee may have the advantage of a friendship with the President would be more persuasive if such friendships were more common for such appointees. The slew of non-career ambassadors sent abroad over recent decades have been Presidential supporters but very few indeed have been Presidential friends.

“Andrew Cooper’s comment, quoted in the article, about the “…club approach to diplomacy, where everything is done in the cocktail circuit and between professional diplomats” is a slur on America’s great career diplomats of the last century like George Allen, Charles Bohlen, and George Kennan. It is equally a slur on today’s corps of career officers who through their knowledge of the countries where they are assigned, and their personal acquaintance with the influential people in those countries, supply most of the information on which our conduct of foreign relations is based. Good diplomats may go to cocktail parties, but that is not where they consolidate their acquaintanceship with deputy ministers, members of parliament, writers and editors, businessmen and bankers, and the others who count in Country X.

“Most career officers support the idea of sending at least some well qualified non-career people abroad as ambassadors. I myself had the privilege of working for two of these, Joseph Farland in Panama and Maxwell Rabb in Rome. But I have seen so many cases of inept and inexperienced party supporters being rewarded with ambassadorships–and damaging our foreign relations–that I decided years ago that our national interest would be better served if all our ambassadors without exception were drawn from the career Foreign Service.

“This diplomatic spoils system of ours reminds me a little of our Civil War, when the Union army grew so fast that there was no alternative to making generals out of civilians with little or no military experience. Some of these generals did well; many more of them did not. We no longer make generals and admirals out of lawyers and bankers. It is time to stop making ambassadors out of political fat cats.”

A “Transformers” Swipe: There were many comments on my post about the not-altogether flattering reference to President Obama in the latest “Transformers” movie, the majority from a link from the conservative site Big Hollywood. The prevailing opinion: It’s about time, given all the Bush-bashing that took place in movies over the past eight years.

Commenter “Mark” wrote, “Amazing how when the left takes swipes at the right in movies, stars get up at awards shows and pat themselves on the back for being courageous(never mind the fact that being liberal in Hollywood is about as courageous as condemning the Nazis at a meeting of the B’nai Brith).
But when a movie comes out taking a swipe at a Democrat, watch out. Given the “president”‘s inaction regarding the N. Koreans and his absolutely disgraceful handling of the situation in Iran, calling him a craven coward is a perfect example of the makers of this film merely calling it as they see it.”

Commentator “Kate” wrote, “I find it very authentic that the movie President Obama would choose to attempt diplomacy first with the bad guys. Sounds pretty true to form to me but I know Obama supporters won’t be happy about it.”

David P. Kronmiller wrote, “Fascinating. Perhaps they could have left out the name of the president altogether. I’m surprised they weren’t more concerned with preserving a timeless feel to the film and therefore making it’s shelf life longer. Always hard with films that reference political figures.”

No Go for Guv: My post on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s decision not to run for governor elicited some words of praise.

Commenter LAman777 wrote, “Villaraigosa was smart not to run. He has plenty of undone work to do here in LA. He’s got to start running LA city for what’s needed now, not focusing on grandiose, ego driven programs that wouldn’t be scheduled to be completed before 2020 and beyond, as well as way future initiatives where he can’t be held accountable. Plus, a savvy, respected Brown could crush Villaraigosa and he’s even vulnerable to Newsom or a GOP nominee such as Whitman.” 

As always, many thanks to all for the thoughtful replies.

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