Ah, hope and change. Near silence from the American mainstream media, but this news item from the Brits about Obama appointing one of his key fundraisers as Ambassador to Great Britain:
Barack Obama has been embroiled in a cronyism row after reports that he intends to make Louis Susman, one of his biggest fundraisers, the new US ambassador in London.
The selection of Mr Susman, a lawyer and banker from the president’s hometown of Chicago, rather than an experienced diplomat, raises new questions about Mr Obama’s commitment to the special relationship with Britain.
American commentators denounced the selection of a rich friend to the plumb post, regarded as one of the most prestigious in the president’s gift, as worthy of a “banana republic”. They said it was proof that Mr Obama has turned his back on his campaign pledge to end politics as usual….
Mr Susman’s reputation for hoovering large amounts of cash from deep pockets saw him nicknamed “the vacuum cleaner” when he raised more than $240million for John Kerry’s White House bid in 2004.
He was one of Mr Obama’s biggest campaign cash “bundlers“, fundraisers who collect contributions from hundreds of others. He also gave $300,000 to the president’s inauguration fund.
More on Susman, a Kennedy crony, from the Brits:
Mr Susman, 71, is now tipped to occupy the grand surroundings of Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence in London which occupies a 12 acre site on the edge of Regent’s Park.
He is no stranger to luxury accommodation. He and his wife Margie own a grand mansion on Chicago’s exclusive Gold Coast, which in the late 1980s was the second most affluent neighbourhood in the US after Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The couple own another property in the millionaire’s playground of Nantucket, bought in 1990 for $4.6m, just up the road from the holiday home of John Kerry, and a short boat ride from the Kennedy family compound at Hyannisport.
That proximity to family patriarch Ted Kennedy is no accident. Mr Susman’s entree into Democratic presidential politics came when he raised cash for Senator Kennedy’s 1980 challenge of Jimmy Carter for the party’s nomination.
Who’s next for an ambassadorship? Tony Rezko?
UPDATE: When I saw the number $240 million as the amount Susman raised for John Kerry, I thought that must be a typo, that it was $24 million. But no, the Telegraph story quoted above is accurate. This from the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2007 under the headline “Obama attracts big-bucks fund-raiser”:
In star-struck, political America where Barack Obama is a supernova, other superstars can slip by unnoticed. See the guy in the picture? The one with the swhite hair and the Walter Matthau eyes?
If you want to be president of the United States, he is the one you want to call before you even talk it over with your own mother.
Louis Susman is his name. He lives in Chicago. And at this moment, he is ready to do whatever Illinois Sen. Barack Obama needs him to do to take the White House in 2008. If Obama is running (and he is), then Susman will be pivotal to raising the cash….
Susman has tried mightily to get Democrats elected president and raised prodigious amounts of money for them. He was Richard Gephardt’s finance chairman in 1988, Bill Bradley’s in 2000 and John Kerry’s national finance director in 2004.
The Kerry campaign nearly killed him. ”I was with Kerry for 2½ years, gained 30 pounds, and my blood pressure shot up to 187,” said Susman, who has since dropped the weight, lowered his heart rate and was trying with limited success not to eat the French fries he hadn’t ordered but the waiter brought anyway.
How much money did Susman raise for Kerry? A bundle: $247 million.
A vacuum cleaner was how someone once described him for a 2005 Tribune article, saying Susman was able to ”Hoover” money from ”deep pockets.”
I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that Obama is appointing Susman Ambassador to Britain, rather than Secretary of the Treasury.
UPDATE No. 2: Isn’t Susman a kulak? Shouldn’t his property be confiscated for the greater good?
UPDATE No. 3: Be nice. Over at Free Republic, someone posted the following comment: “Based on the title, I thought that the article was about Monica Lewinsky.”
UPDATE No. 4: If you are worried where we are heading, check out The Last Bull Capitulates.