AFSA Reviews Obama Appointments
I am inclined to defer to the president’s judgment in his or, possibly, her appointments and I think that Congress should do likewise. Following that rubric I have been predisposed not to question President Obama’s ambassadorial appointments. Appointing cronies and political allies as ambassadors, after all, goes back to the beginnings of the republic. However, this might cause me to change my mind:
Now the American Foreign Service Association, an independent professional body representing US diplomats, is considering making its first formal complaint about a US ambassadorial nominee’s suitability since 1992, in a sign that recent appointments may have proven the final straw for the diplomatic community.
Its president, Robert Silverman, told the Guardian on Tuesday that a board meeting would consider Obama’s three recent nominations on 5 March, although no final decision to formally condemn their appointments had yet been taken.
The AFSA was founded in 1992. CBS helpfully adds:
Typically, presidents abide by the “70-30 rule”, an unofficial guideline which stipulates that the majority of ambassador posts go to foreign service professionals while around a third of them can go to non-career appointees. Since Mr. Obama came to office, around 37 percent of his appointments have been so-called “political appointees.” That’s a higher number than Presidents Clinton and both Bush administrations but lower than Carter and Reagan.
The standards of competence that political appointments must meet change over time. Appointmenting economists without notable banking experience as heads of the Federal Reserve, for example, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating back only about thirty years to Paul Volcker. Previously, several chairmen of the Federal Reserve were not economists and even lacked banking experience. William McChesney Martin, the longest-serving chairman of the Federal Reserve was neither an economist, banker, or even a lawyer. He was a stock broker (and his father wrote the empowering legislation for the Federal Reserve).
As our society has become increasingly professionalized and conscious of credentials, it’s only to be expected that the standards for ambassadorial appointments should rise. It may be time for formal credentials and country or, at least, area expertise to be considered more closely in confirming ambassadorial appointments.