Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mending fences with our allies abroad

Newsweek via Froomkin:

Germany’s new ambassador has no obvious qualifications or abilities to repair the deeply strained relationship with one of America’s most important allies for the last 50 years. However William Timken Jr., an Ohio industrialist, does have one big claim to the job: he raised at least $200,000 for the president’s re-election campaign in 2004—ranking him among the elite class of fund-raisers known as the Bush Rangers. In January, the Timken Co., where Timken is chairman of the company’s board of directors, contributed $250,000 to fund Bush’s Inauguration festivities.

A White House spokesman says Bush tapped Timken for the Berlin post because he’s an “experienced executive.” Yet Timken has no diplomatic background, and, according to his spokeswoman, does not speak German. While Timken does claim ancestral ties to Germany, he appears even less qualified for the job than his predecessor, former GOP senator Dan Coats, who was hardly celebrated in Berlin. Stationed in the German capital at the height of debate over whether to invade Iraq, Coats also didn’t speak German and was widely criticized for his lack of knowledge about the country—two factors said to have contributed to the rift between the United States and Germany over the war. In contrast, Coats’s predecessor was John Kornblum, a popular and vastly experienced career diplomat appointed by President Bill Clinton who is credited (at least in part) with having written President Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech.
Timken is the eighth $100,000-plus Bush fund-raiser to be nominated for an ambassadorship since January. On Wednesday, the White House nominated Al Hoffman, a Florida developer who has raised $300,000 for Bush’s presidential campaigns, to be ambassador to Portugal. Last month, Bush appointed Robert Tuttle, a California car dealer, to be ambassador to the United Kingdom, while Ronald Spogli, a California financer who was Bush’s classmate at Harvard Business School, was named the top diplomat in Rome. Both men were Bush Pioneers in 2004—having raised at least $100,000 for the campaign. In April, the White House named David Wilkins, a South Carolina state representative who raised $200,000 for the 2004 campaign, as the ambassador to Canada. That appointment raised concerns north of the border when Wilkins admitted that he’d only visited Canada once—more than 30 years ago on a trip to Niagara Falls—and that he didn’t speak French (Canada is officially a bilingual country).
If the US could figure out a way to charge other nations for the corruption and incompetence we're so good at exporting, our trade deficit would vanish overnight.


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