Last week, President Obama announced his nomination of Caroline Kennedy to be U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Upon hearing the news, you might have found yourself wondering, “Does Caroline Kennedy speak Japanese?” Or “When did she become an expert in U.S.-Japanese relations?”
The truth is she doesn’t speak Japanese and she has no expertise in Asian politics.
That’s not to criticize the ambassador-to-be. She’s just part of a larger trend of President Obama’s ambassadorial appointments, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The Times’ Paul Richter writes:
More than 56% of Obama's 41 second-term ambassadorial nominations have been political, compared with an average of about 30% for recent administrations, according to U.S. government figures compiled by the American Foreign Service Assn. Of the political nominees, at least half have had fundraising roles.
Presidents have long sent top political allies to top diplomatic posts. But President Obama is turning political supporters into ambassadors at a rate that far exceeds his predecessors.
And what exactly did these individuals do to earn plush ambassadorships?
According to Bloomberg, many of them gave money. Lots of money.
“At least 26 of Obama’s current and nominated ambassadors were major Democratic Party contributors,” reports Bloomberg, and they gave at least $13.6 million to his campaign and allied organizations and candidates. Other figures suggest that number could be as high as $21.6 million.
Individually, their average giving comes to half a million dollars each from 2008 to present.
This is particularly galling because it’s the exact opposite of what President Obama promised to do as a candidate and as a newly elected president. You could even say he was elected, in part, because he promised not to do the very sort of thing he’s doing.
During his 2008 campaign, Obama declared, “We need to limit the influence of big donors.” Granting “big donors” ambassadorships and the access that comes with them hardly seems like it would “limit” their “influence.”
In early 2009, he claimed he wanted civil servants—not political backers—to have ambassadorships “wherever possible.” He insisted he wanted “high-quality civil servants” to be “rewarded.”
So did he run out of “high-quality civil servants” by mid-2013? According to the American Foreign Service Association just 44 percent of Obama’s second term nominations have careers established in civil service.
While the president’s appointment record was better in the first term, it still wasn’t good—at least not when held to the standard that he purported to set for himself. The Foreign Service Association observed in 2011 that he had nominated more political appointees for ambassadorships than any other president in the last 20 years.
In short, President Obama has taken the “business-as-usual” Washington mindset to a new level. If his first term was bad, his second term looks to be worse. He hasn’t just succumbed to some of Washington’s worst habits; he’s taken them to a whole new level—and is unfazed by his blatant hypocrisy.