Ambassadors need skills

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

President Barack Obama used one word — change — to get elected, promising that the old ways of doing things in Washington were about to do just that.

Apparently appointing underqualified friends and political donors to ambassadorial positions wasn’t on the list of things that need changed.

Analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that Obama has paid back some of his biggest political contributors with token jobs, the exact type of thing that the president criticized the Bush administration for doing.

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From the chairman of a professional football team to a deep-pocketed attorney to the head of an entertainment company, the president has tabbed several big-money donors for these positions.

This practice has to stop — and it should stop now.

Either the United States can get by without these ambassadorial posts that seem to be little more than window dressing and public relations roles or the country fills these positions with men and women who are qualified and experienced in international diplomacy.

But Obama is certainly not alone in this practice. Nearly every administration is guilty of this mistake. During the past 40 years, the American Academy of Diplomacy says that more than one third of all ambassadors were non-professionals.

It is insulting to these countries to appoint someone who has little knowledge or expertise. Even worse, it could be extremely dangerous in these uncertain global times.

Obama has made some good appointees based on their qualifications and expertise. Others have been “business as usual” in Washington, D.C.

This practice isn’t change that Americans can believe in.