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Bruce Oreck

This is the official Christmas card from the Ambassador to Helsinki, Finland.  Yes it’s real.  Yes it is from a fully fledged Embassy, and of course yes it’s American.

It’s an embarrassment, now going the rounds of the internet, and not just because it’s cheap, tawdry, and tacky, but because it is an example of America’s oligarchy and its corruption of the state seeping into every part of public life.

You see Bruce Oreck is not a professional diplomat – go on you guessed!  Rather Bruce the biceps is a political appointee, the son of a vacuum cleaner manufacturer but more  importantly a fund raiser for Barack Obama.  In the 2008 campaign he donated $500,000 to the cause and his wife managed $100,000.

And in America people who give money to winning campaigns get to be Ambassadors.  In this America is all but unique.  It is a practice only used by her, and a few burned out basket cases of countries also riddled with debt and corruption.  In this America is right up there with Kazakhstan.

And they are not necessarily good at what they do.  Apart from Bruce Oreck’s embarrassing Christmas card we might recall Cynthia Stroum, the Ambassador to Luxembourg who required to be withdrawn following a damaging internal report about the wreckage of her office. If Wikileaks showed us anything positive it was the complex and intricate nature of the work of the US Diplomatic corps. But hey these newbies get a whole two week How-to-be-an-ambassador course at the State Department Foreign Service institute – whether they need it or not.

I mean, would you let an amateur be your surgeon simply because he had been a prominent fund-bundler?  So why have these amateurs out there representing the country?

Not that they even need to hang about all the time in some god forsaken foreign backwater.  These non civil servants can always come back home to deal with their own personal business interests, all of course first class and at the United States Tax Payers’ dollar; sometimes for months at a time.

Who can we blame, for there must always be blame?  Well, the politically appointed ambassador was always a feature of American diplomacy but seems to have become more entrenched in the Kennedy administration.  Now both parties are at it with more than 30% of all ambassadors appointed by the US being political.  Obama seems to be stretching even this enormous figure to 40% and they are not just placed in minnows of states either.  Lucky old Europe sees 80%, yes that’s eighty per cent, of all ambassadors over the last four decades being these prizes for cash donations.

Often, though not always, these Ambassadors can be both fund-bundlers and also family members, thereby combining blood and money.

Take for example George Herbert Walker III born 1931, and a Skull and Bones member, (better known as “Bert”) who is President George Herbert Walker Bush’s first cousin.  He was appointed United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2003 to 2006.  Incidentally Walker’s son George Herbert Walker IV is CEO of Neuberger  Berman and a “pioneer” or large financial contributor to the Republicans.  We await his elevation in due course.

And he wasn’t the only one either.

President George Herbert Walker Bush had another cousin Dorothy who married Craig Roberts Stapelton, himself yet another prominent Bush fundraiser.  For this Craig and lady Dorothy got, first the Ambassadorship of the Czech Republic from 2001 to 2004, and then the elevation to Ambassador to France from 2005 to 2009.  And no, he didn’t mention his Bush family connection on his web-site either.

Incidentally his son, Walker Stapelton is presently Treasurer of the State of Colorado which is an elected office.  He will hold this until 2015.  We might watch his rise with interest.

Helsinki, where Brucey boy does his bodybuilding, has had five ambassadors (with long interregnums between appointments) in the last seven and a half years.  One cannot feel that playing musical chairs with important diplomatic posts can do any other than damage the image of the United States abroad.

Here are just a few others to be going on with:

Louis Susman, Obama’s fundraiser to the sum of $735,000 got Great Britain as her prize.

France got first Pamela Harriman under Clinton (fee $99,000), and Obama has placed Charles Rivkin who donated $883,000 there.

Japan has John Roos a silicon valley lawyer, whose contribution of $545,000 earned him this plum and of course the eternal title of Ambassador Roos to take to the grave.

South Africa gets Donald Gips who gave $553,000 to the coffers and Spain found that $1,400,000 got them Alan Solomond.

And the French are all uppity about rumours that they are going to get dumped with Anna Wintour a frosty, frozen faced ex editor of Vogue, who is known lovingly as “Nuclear Wintour” and famously does not share lifts with the staff.  She is said to have been the inspiration for the lead character in “The Devil wears Prada”.  However, she too is a fund raiser and must be given her glittering prize.

Change you can believe in?  Well that’s a lot of change certainly.

Copyright David Macadam 2012