opinion and publicly available information, often including home addresses, about people most of whom are or were government officers or employees



    Harris & Ewing, photographer
    photo between 1905 and 1945

    source: Library of Congress
    Prints and Photographs Division

  1. Introduction


    Many American ambassadorships are given to unqualified people because they helped the president, a crony of the president, or the president's political party. Often, the help consists of paying money.

    A real ambassador is a manager. He manages all diplomats and diplomatic missions in a country. He does his work through his subordinates.

    An ambassador must expertly:

    1. understand how the various parts of the State Department interact,
    2. make written evaluations of diplomats and other subordinates
    3. occasionally, informally teach diplomats and other subordinates tips on how to work better
    4. supervise and coordinate diplomats and other DoS staff in his assigned country.

    A person should be a diplomat before he supervises diplomats. A person should supervise diplomats (for example, as a CdA) before he is an ambassador.

    Not all ambassadors are real ambassadors. Many ambassadors hold sinecures which are given to highly unqualified people, often (not always) in exchange for a payment. A potential buyer requests to be told the price for a pseudo-ambassadorship he wants. After he learns the price, he pays if he wants to. If he pays, the president nominates him and the senate then consents. He then becomes a pseudo-ambassador. The pseudo-ambassador avoids interfering with the real ambassador.

    Some pseudo-ambassadors did not pay a bribe. Some people become pseudo-ambassadors because the president appreciates lawful favors or donations from those people.

    On this page, we use the following terms interchangeably: sinecure ambassador, nominal ambassador, pseudo-ambassador, de jure ambassador.

    In countries with a nominal ambassador from America, America's real ambassador (the de facto ambassador) does not have the job title, "ambassador." In those countries, the real ambassador may be the CdA (Chargé d'Affaires or, if a woman, Chargée d'Affaires).

    A real ambassador is almost always a career diplomat. He did well on the FSOT (Foreign Service Officer Test), successfully met other requirements, and eventually became a low-level diplomat of DoS (Department of State). Years later, he becomes a high-level diplomat.

    Nominal ambassadorships are prestigious, government-paid vacations, usually in countries which are popular with Americans as honeymoon places or vacation places. Nominal ambassadorships (sinecure ambassadorships, pseudo-ambassadorships) usually last only a few years. Then, the paid vacation is over.

  2. Examples

    1. 15 December 2021 Examples: a skater and a president's daughter
      1. Introduction

        31 December 2021

        In our discussion of the 15 December 2021 examples below, one source we learned from was a CNN article which we paraphrase and describe below.

        by Jeff Zeleny, Chief National Affairs Correspondent
        Updated 1016 GMT (1816 HKT) December 16, 2021

        On Wednesday, 15 December 2021, the White House stated that Biden intends to nominate Michelle Kwan to be ambassador to Belize (a small, Central American country once named British Honduras), and Caroline Bouvier Kennedy to be ambassador to Australia. Both women briefly stated their goals. The goals of both concern grandiose aspects of US foreign relations (for example: economic issues, pandemic, strengthen alliance, improve global health), not improvement in internal work of DoS. In the articles we read about the two nominees' statements, neither referred to the prospect of working as part of the DoS staff in the assigned country.

      2. Michelle Kwan

        31 December 2021

        photo of blocks of chicle

        Men with barge-loads of bundled blocks of chicle
        Belize Harbor
        photographer Underwood & Underwood, 1919

        source: Library of Congress, USA

        Michelle Kwan was an Olympic, figure skater. She worked to help Biden get elected. As far as we know, she never was a manager, diplomat, or DoS employee.

      3. CBK: Caroline Bouvier Kennedy

        1. Japan

          31 December 2021

          Barack Obama nominated CBK to be ambassador to Japan. The Senate consented to his nomination. She was ambassador to Japan from November 2013 to January 2017. Japan has the third biggest economy in the world. It trades much with America. It has American, military bases close to Russia and China. It is a loyal ally of America. As far as we know, she could not expertly manage an embassy or consulate. As far as we know, she had not previously been a manager, diplomat, or DoS employee, or worked in Japan. Years earlier, she had been in Japan on her honeymoon.

          America has sent many pseudo-ambassadors to Japan. CBK was the first, female pseudo-ambassador to Japan.

          A New York City lawyer might be unable to expertly run NORAD, America's missile-platform submarines, a hospital, or America's embassy and consulates in Japan. Years before CBK was a pseudo-ambassador, she had been a lawyer for the New York City Board of Education, we think. Why hadn't Obama made her a lawyer for the federal Department of Education? We guess that a federal lawyer's job would have been real work. Also, Tokyo might have been a better vacation city than Washington woud have been.

          CBK was a nominal ambassador.

          photo of Japan street scene

          Street Scene, Japan, 1909

          source: Library of Congress, USA

          "Obama drew criticism forCaroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan in 2013 ....."

          Incidentally, her paternal grandfather, Joseph Kennedy, had been nominal ambassador to Britain. He was terrible at being a nominal ambassador.

        2. Australia

          31 December 2021

          CBK, daughter of John F. Kennedy, is a longtime friend, ally, and donor to Biden. She endorsed Biden's candidacy early in the 2020 campaign, speaking at the Democratic convention.

          "I am always grateful to the courageous Solomon Islanders and Australian coast watchers who rescued my father during World War 2, and if confirmed, I will work hard to repay this debt," Kennedy said in a statement. Because she is always grateful, and because she will work hard to repay this debt, she has a conflict of interest which disqualifies her from an ambassadorship to Australia. Biden should not nominate her. The Senate should not consent.

          Incidentally, CBK's father was rescued following, and because of, an attack by the Japanese navy on the boat in which he was. Does CBK feel a debt to Japan because of the harm suffered by her father as the result of the Japanese attack? When CBK was pseudo-ambassador to Japan, did she work hard to repay a debt to Japan because of its attack?

          According to the CNN article, CBK worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York City). We don't know what that work was.

          According to the CNN article, "In a reflection of Biden's close relationship with the Kennedy political dynasty, Caroline Kennedy is the second family member he has nominated to fill a diplomatic post. The President has tapped the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow, Victoria, to be his envoy in Austria." Victoria was not previously a diplomat oror DoS employee.

          Incidentally, CBK will not be the first pseudo-ambassador to Australia. There was a pseudo-ambassador to Australia nominated by Reagan. Why Australia for those two? The nominating president must find a country that the nominee would like to live in for a few years. Some countries are more popular than others. We are not aware of pseudo-ambassadors to Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Nigeria, South Africa, or Bangladesh, for example.

    2. Luxembourg Examples
      1. NY Times
        1. Introduction

          "Ruth Farkas, 89, Nixon's Ambassador to Luxembourg, Dies"
          by Lawrence Van Gelder
          Oct. 22, 1996

        2. Farkas

          "Ruth Lewis Farkas, who was appointed Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1973 after she and her husband, the founder of the Alexander's department stores, contributed $300,000 to President Richard M. Nixon's re-election campaign, died on Friday at the Park Avenue home of her son Robin. She was 89."

          photo of Luxembourg gardens

          Gardens by the Alzette River
          Grund District, Luxembourg City

          The World Factbook

        3. Mesta: the hostess with the mostest

          "... Ambassador Perle Mesta, the Washington socialite who arrived in Luxembourg in 1949 with flamboyant ways and gala parties that inspired the Broadway musical 'Call Me Madam'....'"

      2. Anecdote about Price Negotiation for an Ambassadorship


        "Why the U.S. lets wealthy hoteliers become ambassadors, when other nations don’t"

        by Adam Taylor
        November 20, 2019

        "Herbert Kalmbach, an attorney for President Richard M. Nixon, once testified under oath that he had spoken to a wealthy political donor about an ambassadorship. 'Well, you know, I am interested in Europe, I think, and isn't $250,000 an awful lot of money for Costa Rica?' Kalmbach recalled the donor, Ruth Farkas, complaining about one potential destination.

        "Farkas eventually donated $300,000 to Nixon's reelection campaign. She was ambassador to Luxembourg from 1974 to 1976."

      3. Comment

        As far as we know, neither Farkas nor Mesta had, before being ambassador, been a diplomat or a DoS employee.

    3. Miscellaneous Examples
      1. Miscellaneous Examples from Beam's 2009 Article

        "Embassy Envy"
        May 28, 2009
        9:40 PM

        "In 2006, President Bush appointed his friend and fraternity brother Michael Wood to the post in Sweden. Ann Louise Wagner, former chair of the Missouri Republican Party, landed the Luxembourg spot in 2005. And President Reagan once appointed an ambassador to Australia whose chief qualification was selling used cars."

        Reagan nominated a car salesman to be ambassador to Australia. Biden nominated Caroline Bouvier Kennedy to be ambassador to Australia.

      2. 2021-2022 Nominees


        Above, we link to our list of some people nominated in 2000 and early 2022 to be pseudo-ambassadors. We made the list by getting Biden nominees' names from Wikipedia, then learning, mostly in January and February 2022, about them. One way we learned was by reading Wikipedia and other web sites. It is our opinion, not necessarily anyone else's, that the people we list are or will be pseudo-ambassadors, not real ambassadors. Not only are the people linked to above unqualified to be ambassadors, they are unqualified to be CdAs or consuls.

  3. Comment

    As far as we know on 20 December 2021, usually about thirty percent of America's ambassadors are pseudo-ambassadors. There were over forty percent under Trump.

    Being a pseudo-ambassador is like wearing a padded bra.

    Every American ambassador is an "ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary." America does not have ordinary, standard, or routine ambassadors.

    No one should become an ambassador until he takes the FSOT and then works for years as a diplomat in diplomatic missions (for example, embassies). No one's first DoS job should be ambassador. If a person never was an ambassador's subordinate, he is unqualified to become an ambassador. One should work one's way up, not down, to that job.


  1. Judge's accusation of a coup attempt
  2. Judges
  3. New York
  4. Pseudo-ambassadors
    1. Explanation and Examples
    2. Examples 2021-2022


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