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My (admittedly limited) experience with bureaucratic types actually leaves me a bit reassured that we're using a slick banker-type as ambassador. As you pointed out, some of these ambassador positions seem to be rather style over substance. The impression I got on visiting the State Department a few years ago, and from various foreign service officers that I've met, is that most of the career guys are extremely competent, but very wonkish and/or adventuresome. Not necessarily the suave personalities that people imagine diplomats to be. (One foreign service officer visiting my law school had a rat tail haircut!) I'm sure this has improved the quality of the diplomatic service since the days when all it took were the right connections and mannerisms, but these things had their purpose, as well...


Historically die US Government gives 30% of the ambassadorships to major campaign contributors. It seems that the Obama administration was not fully aware of the informal 30% threshold and so there were some protests of the career diplomats.

And Murphy's main duties as ambassador will probably be giving investment advise to his ambassador colleagues at fancy parties.


I wonder though how the USA would react if European countries would follow that example?

The USA is accustomed to foreign countries sending their best career diplomats to Washington. After all, Washington is important. And even if foreign ambassadors too don´t do much on their own in Washington, I suspect Washington "society" still expects its "due"?

Anyway, this US "tradition" seems a bit impolite. Who you send to a foreign capital as ambassador still sends a signal on how important that country is for you.
Selling that post for money indicates not a lot.

And just because I´m curious.
What are the top ambassadorships for US career diplomats? Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma?
Joking aside, it would seem that career diplomats might be even a tad more motivated if sometime in the future they might have a chance at some of the "plum" ambassadorships too?
You could call it merit-based instead of money-based. :)


@Junger Gott

Cover your back?
You (for example Wall Street banks) massively donate to candidates from both parties. For example I confidently expect that there were/are other bank executives who donated like amounts of money to the Republican party.

In return you get "bipartisan support" for not bothering the banks too much? "Icky" things like more regulation, usury laws, closer supervision by government agencies?
Things like that?

A few millions donated each year protect the billions of $ in profits.
And the billions in profit of course pay your bonuses.
I wouldn´t be surprised if banks (and other businesses) actually encourage it.

Junger Gott

I know rich people do a lot of unreasonable things with their money simply because they can but this aspect of American politics has always struck me as weird:

"Murphy and his "homemaker" wife, Tammy, have contributed nearly $1.5 million to federal candidates, committees and parties since 1989, with 94 percent of that sum going to Democrats, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis. They also contributed an additional $100,000 to Obama's inauguration committee."

Considering the fact how close the two big American parties are to one another if you look at most other countries (Germany is actually not the best example here, but try Italy instead), why do people spend millions of dollars to help some guy win an election over another guy. Heck, even if he does win it'll last for 6 years at most (senators).

It's not that life for a Goldman Sachs executive would have been much different if McCain had won. So spending big money is so - irrational. He'd probably been better of spending the money on women who are more exciting than a "homemaker wife".


The fact that Murphy knows German is probably less important for Germans than for his task as the United States ambassador in Germany. The lingua franca on the diplomatic parquet in Berlin is German. Timken is said to have always looked rather lost on these parties the Russian ambassdor frequently hosts.

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