Monday, May 25, 2009

Of Ambassadors

Kudos to President Obama for selecting Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, and kudos to Mr. Huntsman for accepting the position.

Of course, cynics on both sides of the proverbial isle were quick to point out the political advantages to both men: Obama tucks a powerful and popular Republican away on the other side of the world, and Huntsman adds to his political credentials for a possible future run for higher office.

If they’re smart (and both men are very smart), they considered many things in making their decisions. Obama’s question to his advisors was, “Who’s the best person in America for the job?” (Not “Who’s the best Democrat?”) And Huntsman seems to be a man for whom service to God and country is a big value. How better to serve than to use his expertise and experience in Asia to benefit the interests of two countries he loves—and a world that increasingly depends on international understanding and cooperation.

And how refreshing it will be to have an ambassador who actually speaks the language of the country in which he serves! For too long, America’s attitude toward other nations has ranged from condescending to paternal to arrogant. News clips of American ambassadors abroad have inevitably shown them speaking with heads of state in English—the only language the ambassadors knew.

In Huntsman, we have an ambassador who understands not only the primary language of China but also business and governance—areas in which his host country is struggling to emerge into the modern world. This is what candidate Obama promised and what America needs—bipartisan cooperation and dedication to something higher than politics.


Idna said...

A great example of "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer". In this case, keep your competitors working for you and doing & speaking YOUR philosophy. (eg ... Hillary)

Idna said...

Here's a link to an interesting article about how Ambassadorships have been handed out for many decades. Not based on foreign policy experience, but how much money the person raised for the President & his party. This may be the reason that ambassadors do not speak the language of their appointed country.

Four of Obama's ambassador appointments just the past week went to people who raised/gave $500,000 - $1million-plus for him. The countries were the UK, Japan, France and Denmark. Can we say "Payback Time?"

Here's the link to the article:

So when you said, Obama asked his people "Who's the best person in America for the job", I just about fell off the chair laughing. Do you actually believe that he didn't have a political reason to send Huntsman to the opposite end of the globe. Out of sight, out of mind. Obama knows that this way Huntsman will get no media attention for his own sake, he is a worker bee for Obama now!

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Idna,

Like all presidents, Obama has hundreds of appointments to make. Naturally, many of them will go to people he knows, at least by reputation, and many of those are supporters. The point is that he seems to be very good at picking highly qualified people for the many important positions he has to fill--and Jon Huntman is a prime example.

Furthermore, if Obama limited his picks only to people who never contributed to his campaigns, the pool of candidates would be severely limited. Many thousands of Democrats and Independents and not a few Republicans who believe in his vision have sent contributions, large and small. (In my conservative neck of the woods, "Republican for Obama" tee-shirts were quite popular just before the election.)

By that standard, I would not qualify national office, but I suppose you would. (Have you considered sending your resume to the White House?)