Europe’s Ambassadorial Angst

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A dispatch from Swampland London correspondent Catherine Mayer:

Last night Richard LeBaron, America’s Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in London, hosted the annual Independence Day shindig at Winfield House, the sumptuous ambassadorial residence that has stood empty since the departure in February of the last U.S. envoy to Britain, Robert Tuttle, a Bush appointee. As waiters plied guests with Champagne and canapés including miniature hamburgers and cornbread muffins, a few ingrates repaid LeBaron’s hospitality by disparaging his incoming boss, Louis Susman. Brits have been less than enthusiastic about Obama’s pick of former Citigroup banker and top election fundraiser Susman for the plum London job. They had expected Obama’s much touted promises of change to include a change to the Bushian habit of rewarding money men with key postings, and also interpreted the nomination of the low-profile Susman as a snub to the special relationship.

According to today’s front-page story in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Brits are not alone in their disappointment. The article, headed THE DOLLAR DIPLOMAT – OBAMA WANTS TO RECOMPENSE FUNDRAISER WITH BERLIN POST, says that Obama intends to install Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Democratic Party national finance chairman, as U.S. ambassador to Germany. “If there is a world ranking of the most valued allies according to U.S. President Barack Obama, then France, Britain, Germany and Japan occupy the top slot,” the article begins, adding snarkily: “Valued in the sense that Obama wants to fill the ambassador posts in these countries with men who above all have distinguished themselves through their financial generosity and ability to raise funds during the election.”

The article claims that the State Department is critical of Obama’s choices and adds that an announcement on Berlin has been delayed because Murphy “himself a multi-millionaire, has to agree to a painstaking examination of his finances and tax returns” because Obama has already lost too many nominees just before Senate confirmation after irregularities emerged. Murphy’s finances are very complicated, says the paper, adding that this explanation for the delay comes from “sources around Hillary Cinton, and not without Schadenfreude.”