Biden’s diplomatic picks raise eyebrows in Washington - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

Biden’s diplomatic picks raise eyebrows in Washington

Jeff Flake, the new U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, has arrived in Turkey and is set to assume his duties after the relevant diplomatic procedures have been finalized. What sets Flake apart from other ambassadors is the fact that he had served as both a Republican lawmaker and Senator for many years.

Jeff Flake, a former senator from Arizona, was among the key figures in the mainstream-Centralist wing of the Republican Party. Flake did not get along well with former Republican President Donald Trump to say the least.

Flake, who is among Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics in the Senate, withdrew from politics in 2019. Flake's name was also discussed among Republicans as someone who might run in the 2020 elections. Flake is known for being close to the Mormons, a Christian sect which counts another anti-Trump Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, among its members.

Flake, who was uncomfortable with the Republican Party breaking away from the mainstream and becoming a Trump party, had previously said: "There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party."

Flake was seen as a savior for those who wanted the Republican Party to return to the “old normal,” that is, its pre-Trump line. 

However, Flake was criticized for failing to call out Trump more vociferously. 

Flake's book titled "The Conscience of a Conservative", which he penned after quitting politics, is more often described as "a lament for the Republican Party". 

Arguing that the American traditional bipartisan consensus rule should continue, Flake was among the Republicans who supported Biden in the 2020 elections. Thanks to this position, Flake also drew the ire of Trumpist Republicans.

Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's presidential candidate, said during his election campaign that he wanted to work closely with mainstream-Centralist Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives. Commenting on Biden's nomination for the Ankara Embassy, Flake said, “U.S. foreign policy can and should be bipartisan. That is my belief as well, and my commitment.”

The appointment of ambassadors for political or other personal reasons, instead of professional diplomats, who are also called "career diplomats" in the U.S., has been for a while now a matter of debate in the country. 

A long-standing practice was for career diplomats to make up at least 70 percent of all embassy appointments. Since the George W. Bush era, this ratio has started to gradually dwindle. In the Trump era, the proportion of career diplomats has dropped even more. Trump's attempts to shrink the State Department's budget were hotly debated. Many diplomats resigned in response to Trump's condescending view of diplomacy. 

The fact that Trump assigned his real estate lawyer as an ambassador and Middle East Special Representative was widely panned.

Likewise, Trump's appointment of his son-in-law and Senior Advisor, Jared Kushner, to execute the so-called Israel-Palestine Peace Deal, which he packaged as the "Deal of the Century," was just as equally panned.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to ensure that more career diplomats are appointed as Ambassadors. However, Biden is also accused of nominating his political friends. If we look at the reports circulating in U.S. media, more than 60 percent of Biden's embassy picks are "political friends."

Another controversy about Biden's appointments was that he nominated many names for the Embassy, who had made large donations to the Presidential Campaign or the Democratic Party. Biden's nominations for the Embassy of Canada, Costa Rica, Slovenia, Belgium, Argentina and Finland are only a small part of the list of donors. Likewise, the appointment of Thomas Nides, who donated to Biden's Presidential Campaign, as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel was not warmly received by the public. 

However, Biden’s appointment of Nides, Vice President of Morgan Stanley, the fourth largest investment banking firm in the United States, was welcomed by Israel-affiliated groups in the country. It should be especially noted that younger Democratic politicians tend to balk at the appointment of wealthy donors and private interest lobbyists to powerful offices in the federal government or diplomacy.


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