Obama names London ambassador
Diplomats and socialites disappointed as former Citigroup banker and Chicago fundraiser Louis Susman gets London prize
President Barack Obama appears to have gone back on his promise to end cronyism in Washington by appointing one of his oldest Chicago buddies - and biggest financial supporters - to the post of US Ambassador to London. He is Louis Susman, a 71-year-old retired banker, nicknamed the Vacuum Cleaner for his ability to hoover up campaign funds.
"I don't think anyone enjoys raising money," Susman told the Chicago Tribune, "but for some reason I seem to have a knack."
The official announcement of Susman's appointment to the Court of St James is expected soon, having already been accepted by the Queen. It will not go down well in certain circles - among diplomats because he has very little foreign experience and is not a professional, and among socialites because he's not nearly as glamorous a choice as had been hoped. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, was mooted earlier this year, as was Oprah Winfrey, another member of Obama's Chicago circle.
Susman, a vice-president of Citigroup until he retired in February, is known to have helped raise at least $500,000 for Obama's presidential campaign last year and a further $300,000 for his inauguration in January. He will be giving up - temporarily at least - his home in an expensive neighbourhood of Chicago, overlooking Lake Michigan, for Winfield House, the mansion in Regent's Park where Obama stayed during the recent G20 summit.
Seasoned diplomats will not be surprised that a US president has once again used the post as a reward for a political supporter. But they will be disappointed. Ronald Neumann is one of several former career diplomats in the States who put pressure on Obama following his election to appoint ambassadors with serious diplomatic experience. He says now: "You would think with our most important ally we might occasionally send someone with some experience." ·
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