Diplomats See Risk in Handing Posts to Obama Pals

Friends, big donors often get cushy ambassadorships, to chagrin of lifers
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2008 3:00 PM CST
A spokesman wouldn't speculate on whether Oprah Winfrey might be offered an ambassadorship by Barack Obama, nor on whether she would consider it.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Could Barack Obama make Oprah Winfrey an ambassador? It’s an all-too-plausible scenario, the Chicago Tribune reports, assuming Winfrey was willing to leave her TV career. Presidents typically give out roughly a third of the 200 ambassadorships to friends and political allies, and, in a first, the American Academy of Diplomacy has asked Obama to rein in such patronage.

“Diplomacy is too serious of a business to give away,” Ronald Neumann said, urging Obama to reward no more than 10% of the jobs to friends. “The world situation is as complicated as it’s ever been, and the State Department is grossly understaffed—so it's that much more important that its leaders be high quality.”