Gosh I’m so gauche…
Browsing round the papers this morning I was struck by two connected items. First the entrenched quality of Oligarchy with its attendant cronyism in the United States, and the sclerotic reactionary conservatism of the Holy Catholic Church.
It combined with Callista Gingrich the third wife of Newt Gingrich taking up her appointment as Ambassador to the Holy See or Vatican as most of us call it.. The picture above is from her delivering her credentials on 22nd December.
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 such luminaries as Kazakhstan.
And not surprisingly they are not necessarily good at what they do. Who can forget the cringe-making Christmas Cards from Bruce Oreck’s time in Finland? Bruce seemed only interested in showing off his body building prowess to the bemused Finns rather than knuckling down to promoting the interests of the country that had sent him there (and which paid him sweetly as well). Or how about the toe-curling embarrassment of Cynthia Stroum, one-time Ambassador to Luxembourg who required to be withdrawn following a damaging internal report about the wreckage of her office.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 gauche 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 for the hospital? You know “With every 5 million dollars garnered we will let YOU do a hysterectomy!” or because she had become the wife of a conservative Senator whom you needed to keep on the right side of? So why have these amateurs out there representing the country?
And relations between America and the Vatican are a tad strained these days. The Pope clearly does not like Trump and there are obvious disagreements over Jerusalem, Migrants and Climate Change.
Not that the Gingriches need to hang about all the time in this god ridden 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.
So, latest egregious contender for gilded gravy train of the year (albeit a late entry) must go to Callista Gingrich the third (um yeah it is third) wife of that old Republican stalwart Newt “Build it on the moon” Gingrich. It’s a right cushy number eh?
Can I be alone in a raised eyebrow?
As an aside do you remember when the Vatican was all up its grill about Trump and his Mexican Wall, and came out with the following “A person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian”. Thus thundered the Pontifex Maximus, (The great builder of bridges) Francis the Mighty.
Now Francis is about to accept a self-confessed adulteress to the heart of the Vatican! Which is odd because the Holy See was way less keen to accept a gay ambassador only the other year. Then the French in 2015 had suggested one Laurent Stefanini a high ranking superbly qualified professional diplomat who was refused, simply because he was gay.
Yep, Frankie that’s building loads of bridges.
Anyway, Callista is shall we say, an odd choice. She has absolutely no particular qualification to be an ambassador anywhere, far less in the fractious nest of vipers that is the Vatican. The Vatican has always, at it may most diplomatically put, been “a specialised posting”.
But little ol’ oligarch Callista went to music school, and can, I am told, sing nicely. She also staffed years ago as a clerk on a Agriculture committee. And that seems to be about really. Oh yes, she is a Catholic.
So, as a devout Catholic, will Calista just settle for the endless terminal rounds of canapes and dinners, or will she step up to the plate and be an American as well? Will she be willing to hold the Papal See’s nose to the grindstone about flushing out the paedophilic abusers of children still entrenched in his organisation? Will Callista demand that the Catholic Church stand up for Christians in the Middle East as pogrom after pogrom amounts to full on ethnic cleansing and genocide by Muslim fanatics? Will she stand by and watch as the Catholic Church does nothing as Christians are driven from their historic lands?
Yeah, I doubt she will do anything. She will sit and look pretty at restaurant tables making small talk. It’s just a nice wee sinecure for an oligarch’s wife. Newt’s retired now so can sit and bore them all with war stories. Callista will get a dress allowance too you know. Guess who pays for that? Uh-huh that will be you again.
Weird or what? Does this look like an Ambassador to you?
So how come America alone in all the world’s developed nations has this mad system? 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. Nowadays 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 already 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. Trump for all his swamp draining boasts is using the same old same old. The only motive I can think of is that it packs difficult old Newt off to Europe and out of Donald’s hair for a few years.
That and Donald and the Pope don’t get along anyway. So it shows Frankie what the Donald thinks of him and his church.
Of course, the system really ticks off the professional staff who basically get all the work, non of the praise, and none of the top jobs they might feel they were due after a life-times service. But that word “service” is the clue. They are there as service to the class of oligarchs now in control.
Copyright David Macadam 2017