- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2009

‘VACUUM CLEANER’

President Obama is getting negative reviews in London over reports that he is planning to name a top Democratic fundraiser and former Wall Street executive to serve as U.S. ambassador to Britain.

Sources in Washington and in London say he wants to nominate Louis Susman, known as the “vacuum cleaner” for his ability to suck in money from his stock market buddies, for a position that many foreign policy experts consider to be Washington’s most important diplomatic post.

Mr. Susman, 71, is also a former top executive at Citigroup, a firm that has accepted $45 billion in government bailout aid to prevent its collapse.

Mr. Obama’s consideration of a political supporter instead of a professional diplomat “raises new questions about [his] commitment to the special relationship with Britain,” the London Telegraph wrote over the weekend.

Mr. Susman, who collected more than $800,000 for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, would replace another political appointee, Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle, who raised $100,000 for former President George W. Bush’s re-election and donated another $100,000 to his second inauguration.

British observers of U.S. politics have been fretting over Mr. Obama’s perceived coolness to the traditionally warm Anglo-American ties.

Some were alarmed when the new president sent a bust of Winston Churchill back to the British Embassy. The British government loaned the valuable bust of the great wartime leader to Mr. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and Mr. Bush displayed it in the Oval Office.

Observers were also concerned over the wording of a White House statement Saturday, announcing that Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet Mr. Obama on March 3. Instead of a “special relationship,” the announcement referred to a “special partnership.”

“A lot has been written over the last two months, seeking to read the nuances inside the runes between the lines of the special relationship,” wrote Tim Shipman, the Telegraph’s correspondent in Washington.

LINCOLN AND BURNS

Scottish leader Alex Salmond noted Monday that the United States and Scotland share a special historical bond between Scotland’s greatest poet and one of America’s greatest presidents.

Although Robert Burns died 13 years before Abraham Lincoln was born, the backwoods lawyer who would later become the 16th U.S. president was a great fan of the Scottish poet, who also shared a life of rural poverty before finding fame through his songs and poems.

“It is said that, before entering politics, as a young lawyer, Lincoln always had a copy of Burns’ works. Certainly in the White House, he had his son recite Burns’ poems to guests after dinner,” Mr. Salmond told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington, where he will address a Library of Congress symposium on Burns on Tuesday.

Scotland this year is celebrating the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth, while the United States is marking the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s.

Mr. Salmond, the first minister of Scotland and an advocate of Scottish independence, also said his government is limited in its ability to react to the global economic crisis because of political restrictions from the British government.

“The case for Scottish independence becomes even more pressing, if we are to protect our communities and create the stimulus we need to see our economy grow,” he said.

On his two-day visit, Mr. Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, will also help inaugurate a Scottish caucus in the U.S. Senate and meet with members of the Friends of Scotland Caucus in the House.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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