American diplomats are condemning what they view as President Barack Obama’s selling ambassadorships to high donors. This has long been a problem, which I criticized in earlier administrations, and Obama supporters are likely to return to the refrain that he is just doing what his predecessors did. That is never a very satisfying answer. This is a form of corruption as presidents give high diplomatic posts to people who give them loads of money. Obama has apparently expanded on this sordid practice to a level that is alarming diplomats. The fact is that all ambassadorships should be confined to people selected for their diplomatic skills, preferably from the ranks of our career diplomats or academia.
For years, I have been in conversations with people close to the White House and President Obama who openly discuss the amount of money required to secure an ambassadorship. Just last week a ranking Democratic operative told me that a friend had put together around $2 million in donations because he was told that “the price had gone up.”
That is the very point of the article below where it is being reported that the price is up to $1.8 million. It is not clear why the White House does not simply post the price list on the website to facilitate these purchases. I recently gave a speech and had dinner with a major donor who said that he gave “his” ambassadorship to his wife. She loved being called an ambassador.
Some donors raise so much that they are allowed to travel around the world playing ambassador. Obama’s campaign finance chairman, Matthew Barzun, was given the choice diplomatic post at the Court of St James’s, which comes with a residence with a garden that is second only in size to that of Buckingham Palace. He just finished a stint as ambassador to Sweden.
Thomas Pickering has denounced the practice as “simony” or the selling of public office. He is obviously right that “it has the effect of diminishing perhaps the sense that the US is treating these countries with the respect they deserve.”
Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), has also denounced the record of Obama in these dubious transactions.
I remain astonished that we have allowed this practice to continue. Obama apologists have to do more than simply say that he is simply following the same corrupt practices of his predecessors. It appears that he is a standout in the selling of public offices.