Power Players

The devil wears an ambassadorship? Anna Wintour considered for London, Paris posts

Power Players

Political Punch

President Obama's reelection means we will have new officials in the Cabinet. It also means we will have some new ambassadorships, and democrats in the know tell me one of the big names being considered for a plum ambassadorship to the UK or France is Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Two of the most important ambassadorships are our top diplomat in the U.K.  -- following in the footsteps of former U.S. presidents including John Adams, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams -- and our top diplomat in France -- a prestigious position held by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and founding Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver.

So whom do Democrats say is now seriously being considered?

Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a towering figure in the fashion community known for elegance, taste, and a cruelty so intolerable a best-selling book and film were written about it.

"The Devil Wears Prada," written by a former assistant to Wintour, cemented the editor in pop culture legend for her mean streak. It is a reputation some close to her dispute, though other sources tell ABC News they have witnessed it firsthand.

ABC News asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if it is important for a diplomat to be, well, diplomatic?

"We had one of the greatest diplomats of his generation pass away not long ago, Richard Holbrooke, and I think everyone who knew him or who sat across the table from him would agree that he was not by anyone's traditional definition particularly diplomatic," said Carney.

"So they come in all types and sizes and approaches."

At the state department, a comparison of Wintour with the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke -- a Vietnam War veteran, former assistant secretary of state, UN ambassador, and chief architect of the Bosnia peace accords -- raised some eye brows.

But this isn't about Wintour in particular; this is about money. Wintour's fundraising for President Obama's reelection campaign is really the only reason we're having this discussion. She has raised millions of dollars for the president's reelection.

"We urge the political parties to move away from the practice of financial campaign contributions, and sale, essentially, of ambassadorships," says Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association. Johnson has been in the foreign service for 32 years.

President Obama ranks somewhere in the middle when it comes to rewarding non-career diplomats with these posts. Jimmy Carter did it the least, and Ronald Reagan did it the most. Obama has give more than 30 percent of his ambassadorships to political appointees -- more than did President George W. Bush.

"Thirty-plus percent of all the ambassadorships is too much to be going to non-career people," says Johnson. "And if you look at the 30 percent, that's worldwide. If you just look at Europe or what were the G7 or G8, it's 85 percent over four decades going to non-career people."

For more on the "sale of ambassadorships," including how the U.S. ranks compared to other countries, check out this week's Political Punch.

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