Posts Tagged ‘al kamen’

Political prerogative in the embassies (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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[Editor's note: I created this bivariate Dorling cartogram for Al's column on Friday. The bubbles are grouped by geographic region show number of total ambassadors and the subset (in red) who have been political appointees the last 49 years. The subset is aligned bottom middle instead of sharing the same center point as the total bubble. If you haven't seen our Head Count interactive database tracking all Obama's federal appointments, check it out!]

Republished from The Washington Post. Reported by Al Kamen.

Just after the election in November, we wrote that an Obama administration was likely to eschew “the traditional sale of most ambassadorships, so aptly carried on during the Bush administration.” The chatter was that the new team would pick political types, but with some foreign policy cred — as the Clinton administration tended to do — and maybe reduce the percentage of politicals in favor of more career Foreign Service officers.

Yeah, well, we must have been eschewing something. The fat-cat contributors naturally got the plum postings, as usual.

But judging from data compiled by the American Foreign Service Association, the career employees union, it appears that Obama is on track to reduce, at least marginally, the percentage of jobs going to contributors and cronies. While there are still a lot of vacancies, AFSA officials project that Obama is likely to end the year appointing fewer political folks than either Bush or Clinton to the 181 ambassadorial postings — but still too many, as far as the career diplomats are concerned.

About 30.1 percent of Bush’s ambassadors during his eight years were political folks, AFSA found. Clinton’s average, 33 percent politicals, was higher, but Clinton’s folks were a mix of non-career people who actually knew a lot about the countries or regions to which they were named and pure cash types — our favorite was hotelier Larry Lawrence for Switzerland, the guy whose body was exhumed from Arlingon National Ceremony when it turned out he lied about being in the Merchant Marine.

If Obama’s first-year total ends up slightly lower than Bush’s, then Obama’s eventual four-year — or eight-year — percentages will probably be clearly lower than his immediate predecessors’, we’re told, because the first round of appointments tends to skew more to paying off politicals than do the later rounds.

Of course, the politically connected still get the finer spots in the Caribbean and Western Europe. As the accompanying chart shows, the career diplomats head to somewhat less delightful (even nasty) postings in Central Asia (100 percent career since 1960), the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Since 1960, no Foreign Service officer has ever run the embassy in Dublin and only one, Ray Seitz, has gone to the Court of St. James’s in London. On the other hand, no political appointee has ever gone to Chad and only one has gone to Bulgaria.

See AFSA’s full data at http://www.afsa.org/ambassadors.cfm.

SOURCE: American Foreign Service Association, data 1960 through today. | Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Karen Yourish/The Washington Post – October 23, 2009

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Interactive: Obama’s Appointments (Kelso via Wash Post)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

[Editor's note: I did the Flash ActionScript 3 programming behind Head Count: Tracking Obama's Appointments. This ambitious, collaborative database-driven project tracks the Obama administration’s senior political appointments and will be kept up-to-date with the latest happenings. A look at some of the interactive features you can find at washingtonpost.com/headcount.]

Interactive graphic and database by Sarah Cohen, Karen Yourish, Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Ryan O’Neil, Paul Volpe, Sarah Sampsel and Laura Stanton.

This project draws on concepts from these two blog posts in particular: It Ain’t Easy To Get A Newspaper To Provide Useful Data (TechDirt) and The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady (NY Times).

Republished from The Washington Post

Heads Pop Up and Heads Roll: Let’s Keep Track.
By Al Kamen; Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page A11

Today we launch Head Count, The Washington Post’s interactive database to help you keep a sharp eye on the people President Obama is appointing to the nearly 500 top positions in the federal government that require Senate confirmation. The new feature will not only tell you who they are but also help you count all the demographic beans — age, sex, ethnicity, education (elite schools or not), home states and so on.

At http://www.washingtonpost.com/headcount, you can search agency by agency to determine which jobs are still open, should your private-sector job be looking a little shaky these days. You can also search by individual to determine how many officials in this “change” administration are merely retreads from the Clinton days.

And Head Count will give some clues to help answer everyone’s perennial question: How did that fool get that great job? It will also tell you who paid good, hard money or bundled huge sums for Obama/Biden, who worked on the campaign, who had the coveted Harvard Law connection, hailed from Chicago or was a pal of Michelle Obama, Tom Daschle or Ted Kennedy.

The appointments that are tracked by Head Count do not include judges, ambassadors, U.S. attorneys or U.S. marshals. We’ll monitor those separately. Nor does the database include the many important officials who are not confirmed by the Senate. We’ll be tweaking the database as we go, adding new categories, such as veterans, and making other additions.

Loop Fans can help! If you’ve got information we could use or suggestions about how to improve the site, please submit comments and updates at the link provided on the Head Count Web site.

NOMINATING PARTY

The White House personnel logjam — also known as the Great Daschle Debacle — appears to have been broken. Team Obama’s nominations operation began at a record pace. But IRS problems sparked Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle‘s withdrawal on Feb. 3, leading to a general revetting of nominees that stalled everything.

The numbers are startling. Obama, by the end of his first week in office, had announced 47 nominees for senior-most jobs. He’d officially nominated 37 of them, according to data compiled by New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service Presidential Transition Project. (That number includes some holdovers.)

But in the month after Daschle’s withdrawal, the White House announced only 10 candidates for Senate-confirmed positions and formally nominated only six people.

In the next three weeks, however, the pace ramped up sharply, with 42 nominees named. Official nominations have been slower — only 27 during that time. But there were 15 last week, and we’re told there are plenty in the pipeline. As of yesterday, there were 39 Senate-confirmed individuals on the job. (That includes seven holdovers.)

The push now is to get as many nominees up to the Senate — and get confirmation for the three dozen or so already up there — before the Senate slithers out of town on April 3.

View the interactive at The Washington Post . . .

INTERACTIVE: Inside Obama’s West Wing (Kelso via Wash Post)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

[Editor's note: Please enjoy this interactive featuring a floor plan of the West Wing showing who sits where. Kudos to Laura Stanton and Karen Yourish for leading this project. I advised on the coding.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Original published 29 January 2009.

They say that proximity to power is power. And it comes to follow that the most coveted offices in Washington are those in the West Wing of the White House. Some, like press secretary Robert Gibbs’s office, are spacious. Others are cubbyholes. But they are all in the same building as the president’s Oval Office. Explore the interactive graphic below for an insider’s guide to who’s sitting where in President Obama’s West Wing:

Screenshots below. View interactive version.

GRAPHIC: By Laura Stanton, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Philip Rucker, Al Kamen and Karen Yourish – The Washington Post