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Retired U.S. diplomats call for end to political ambassador appointees

Feb. 14, 2014 at 3:42 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A group of retired U.S. foreign service officers has called for an end to the practice of appointing political contributors and supporters as ambassadors.

The American Foreign Service Association, in a statement on its website, pointed out that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have both called for a more professional and stronger state department.

"Now is the time to end the spoils system and the de facto 'three-year rental' of ambassadorships," the AFSA said. "The United States is alone in this practice; no other major democracy routinely appoints non-diplomats to serve as envoys to other countries."

Fox News, reporting on the statement, said Friday that Obama has named a slightly higher percentage of political ambassadors than President George W. Bush. Fox also detailed recent embarrassments, like Obama's choice for ambassador to Norway who did not realize the country is a constitutional monarchy and his nominee for Argentina who had never visited the country.

The Washington Post, however, said that 37 percent of Obama's picks have been political, just under the 38 percent racked up by Republicans Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. The Post said only 27 percent of Jimmy Carter's choices were political, the lowest of any recent president.

Obituaries for Shirley Temple Black, who died earlier this week, pointed out that the former child superstar was a credible ambassador to Ghana and later served in Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992, during the breakup of the Soviet Bloc.

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