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Embassy Row: Name droppers

The diplomatic guessing game that comes with every president's second term is sweeping swank salons from Washington to Hollywood, as big-time Obama supporters gossip about who is expected to get the coveted titles of Mister Ambassador or Madam Ambassador.

The choicest diplomatic posts almost always go to a president's top fundraisers, and some of the most elegant ambassadorial residences are expected to have vacancies soon.

Ambassador Louis Susman is said to be preparing to resign from his post in London, opening up Winfield House on 12½ acres of prime land in Regent's Park, and Ambassador Charles Rivkin is planning to leave the diplomatic mansion called the Hotel de Pontalba in Paris on the famed Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore.

Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, resigned this month as ambassador to Ireland, where he lived in a grand residence completed in 1776 and surrounded by 1,760 acres of Dublin's Phoenix Park.

With those and other plum positions opening up, diplomatic name-dropping is at a fevered pitch.

The Hollywood Reporter this month added four Tinseltown political donors to the name game in an article labeled "exclusive."

The entertainment newspaper said President Obama is considering ambassadorial nominations for the Los Angeles-based White House decorator Michael Smith, TV producer Colleen Bell, movie-industry money manager John Emerson and Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon.

"And the Westside L.A. dinner-party circuit has started buzzing with conversations about who else might be in the mix this time around," wrote reporter Tina Daunt.

Mr. Smith later denied that he is a candidate for an ambassadorship.

"He has a business that requires his presence and contracts that go well into the next three years, so this was never even the remotest possibility," his spokesman, Marc Szafran, told the Hollywood newspaper.

In an Anna Wintour update, the latest diplomatic gossip has the editor of Vogue magazine as the next U.S. ambassador to France.

Since sometime in the summer, the British-born fashion maven has been mentioned as Mr. Obama's choice to replace Mr. Susman in London.

Panic in Africa

The U.S. Embassy in the strife-torn Central African Republic is trying to avoid another Benghazi scandal by exhorting the government to protect American diplomats, as rebels spread fear in the capital, Bangui.

"We urgently call on the government … to fulfill its responsibilities to protect diplomatic missions and U.S. citizens currently in the capital," embassy spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters this week.

His warning to President Francois Bozize — a former military commander who grabbed power in a coup in 2003 — came three months after the United States failed to provide adequate protection to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where terrorists killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The State Department relied on local militias, instead of the Libyan military, to protect the consulate.

Mr. Ventrell said that U.S. Ambassador Laurence D. Wohlers suspended normal embassy operations and authorized non-emergency personnel and their families to leave the country immediately.

"We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic," Mr. Ventrell said.

Rebels have taken 10 towns in the north of the country, sparking panic in the capital city of 600,000 in the southwest along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Earlier this week, protesters in Bangui threw rocks at the French Embassy, accusing the former colonial power of failing to help the government fight the rebels.

Mr. Bozize on Thursday appealed for more help from France, which has 200 soldiers in the country to train the army.

"France has the means to stop [the rebels], but unfortunately they have done nothing for us until now," he told a crowd in the capital.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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