Saturday, 23 May 2009

Obama picks financial backer for UK ambassador post

A little bit of Chicago's ruthless and combative political machine is soon to descend on the decorous calm of the Court of St James. Despite promising to end cronyism in Washington, Barack Obama is about to appoint one of his home town friends and financial backers to the plum posting of US ambassador to London.

Ewen MacAskill on the new US ambassador to Britain Link to this audio
The next ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary will be Louis Susman, a lawyer and financier with little experience of foreign affairs.

The appointment will end months of speculation. Susman's name first surfaced in a diary column in the Washington Post in February, but Caroline Kennedy was also mentioned, as was Oprah Winfrey, another of Obama's Chicago supporters...

Historically, about 25% to 30% of the diplomatic posts have been political appointees. It is too early to say, but Obama's ratio could yet be lower...

Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, sent two of his financier backers to the UK: William Farish, a Texas multimillionaire, and Robert Tuttle, a California car dealer. The lack of an experienced diplomat in London was felt most in the runup to the war in Iraq in 2003, with Farish invisible when a figure was needed to put the US case on camera and in print.
Source: The Guardian. Via JuliaM.