Archives: Wintour is not qualified for ambassadorship to UK or France

Originally published in December 2012
Simon Nguyen

COMMENTARY | According to President Barack Obama, being a fashion icon apparently qualifies the person for the post of U.S. ambassador. Bloomberg News reported earlier this week that Anna Wintour – the editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Vogue – is on the president’s shortlist for ambassadorship to either Great Britain or France. If the president does in fact pick Wintour for the coveted post, he will likely be accused by his critics of putting celebrity power over merit.

While it is not uncommon that a U.S. president would reward his top campaign fundraisers with ambassadorships after a hard-fought election, the top diplomat’s post to the U.K. or France is too important of a position to be given to someone who has zero experience in the foreign-service arena. The aforementioned countries are America’s closest allies as well as major players in world’s affairs.

Wintour, who was one of Obama’s top financiers in the 2012 campaign, may be smart and capable, but attending fashion shows and interviewing celebrity figures are not equitable to conducting diplomacy. The ambassadorships to Great Britain and France should be reserved for either career diplomats or people with a more relevant resume. 

If Obama insists that Wintour be given an ambassadorship, he should give her one of lesser significance. There are hundreds of U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. Instead of Britain or France, the president should send her to another European country such as Belgium, Denmark or Finland. Obama could always elevate her to a more prominent ambassadorship after a few years.

Finally, the public should take a firmer stance against the long-standing practice of awarding ambassadorships and cabinet posts to political allies and major campaign donors. Former president George W. Bush learned a hard lesson in 2005 when Michael Brown, his unqualified appointee to lead FEMA, failed to deliver an adequate response to Hurricane Katrina. Hopefully, it won’t take an incident or controversy for President Obama to realize the danger of this political practice.

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