Uninformed ambassadors are an old joke

Ethel Merman Donald O'ConnorI’ve been reading a great deal about Obama’s proposed ambassadorial appointments, some of whom have never been to the countries in which they’ll be America’s representatives. They’re getting the jobs as sinecures in exchange for financial services rendered to the President.

Much as I’m always happy to leap onto the anti-Obama bandwagon, he’s not doing anything new. Back in 1949, President Truman did exactly the same thing. He appointed Washington, D.C. hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta as the Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1949. She was famously uninformed about Luxembourg (or really about anything).

Inspired by this uninspired appointment, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse wrote “Call me Madam,” about Sally Adams, the oil-rich “hostess with the mostest” ambassador to “Lichtenburg.” She is blatantly, amusingly, ill-informed, but comes complete with style and charm. She also sings wonderful Irving Berlin songs, so everyone is happy.

The show, starring Ethel Merman, was a Broadway hit in 1951. I’m now watching the 1953 musical, also starring Merman, as well as George Sanders, Donald O’Connor, Billy DeWolfe, Charles Dingle, and Vera-Ellen. It’s not a great movie, but it helps while away the time while I’m doing my post-surgical rest, ice, compression, and elevation, as well as my ten hours a day on the “knee moving machine.”

My only real regret watching the show us that Donald O’Connor didn’t have a bigger, longer career. I love watching him. He’s a charming actor, has a beautiful voice for show tunes, and is one if the best dancers to have come out of Hollywood. It was his misfortune to be stuck in the “Francis the Talking Mule” films, as well as to get the fever (from Francis) that debilitated him and helped derail his career.

Conservatives end to target the Obama administration for things that really matter. Getting our collective knickers in a twist about something that’s as old as politics is a waste if time. Doing otherwise makes us as silly as the Senators who waste their time targeting the Washington Redskins.

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  • jj

    Your O’Connor comments get me thinking of people who didn’t have the careers that might have been predicted in somewhat the same vein you did a couple of weeks ago.  As my father was nearly sixty when Arnold Palmer turned golf into a profession, it occurs to me that the case is pretty close to the same for the generation that included Donald O’Connor, only they were too young.
     
    O’Connor was two years old when Fred and Adele Astaire were reinventing the stage musical in both the US and the UK; and ten when Astaire began doing the same on film.  He joins Vera-Ellen, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds and, perhaps saddest of all, Mitzi Gaynor – as well as a whole bunch we never heard of at all – in being too young to have the careers they should have had: because when they were at their height, the Hollywood musical was dead.  Even Astaire and Gene Kelly by 1960 had to do other things.  The great writers were gone, and if you look at the 1950s musicals, most of them contain not a single original song: the music was recycled.
     
    And it wasn’t just them.  By the 1960s a whole entertainment way of life was closing up shop, and Lana Cantrell, Julie London, Edye Gorme and Steve Lawrence, Jaye P. Morgan, Joey Heatherton, Nancy Sinatra, Frrank Jr., et al – a whole generation of nightclub performers –  all had to find something else to do: the nightclubs were gone.  The circuit was gone.  No more bands, no more band singers.  Doc Severinsen wasn’t exactly starving to death when Carson picked him up, but he sure wasn’t doing terrific, either.  If Peggy Lee and Lena Horne had been Lana Cantrell and Jaye P. Morgan’s age, would anybody ever have heard of either of them?  Would they have had careers at all?  Not bloody likely: the venues to launch the careers were gone.  Cantrell and Morgan were both done before they were forty.  Cantrell went to law school and Morgan finished up on game shows.  No more places to appear, so no more albums, so no more career.
     
    It’s amazing how a genre of music and performance  more or less vanished from our lives there, from mid-fifties to mid-sixties.  Just gone: poof!  And many a career that should have been, just wasn’t.  Donald O’Connor was one of many casualties from the same era.  When the talking mule is all there is, if you’ve gotten accustomed to having something to eat every day, you go with the talking mule.

  • JKB

    Yeah, except for ambassadors to nations where our national ties are tiny, i.e., our “enemies”, an ambassador is known more for their close links to the President and their social prowess.  We have professional diplomats to handle the day to day.  So except where a crisis needing immediate direct representative of the President intervention is a risk, far less likely with modern comms, the ambassador is more ceremonial.  Of course, uncouth bums are a risk but sadly not a rarity.  Turns out many who become “friends” of powerful politicians have weak or non-existent moral compasses.

  • jj

    Professional diplomats like…. Jean Francois Kerry?  Sally Adams was a well-informed genius compared to Lurch.

  • Libby

    Why would anyone want to an Ambassador for Obama after Benghazi?

  • Danny Lemieux

    To put things in perspective, Book, Perle Mesla was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg by Truman before the EU was formed and thus before Luxembourg had an strategic value. Hungary and Norway are strategically important countries, as is Belgium, where one of Obama’s recent ambassador/bundler appointees was caught trying to solicit sex from little boys in a park. There really is no comparison.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      Given that the Catholic Church stopped being tolerant of the homosexual activists being funneled into them as a safety valve, those people have to go somewhere. And it’s generally going to be up to the Left on where to send them.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    With respect to what Danny wrote, I’m worried that foreigners will actually think our ambassadors are sent to their country based upon American will. It’d be horrible for the ambassador to Japan to be considered what Americans deem “fit” for Japan.

  • Charles Martel

    Sending a rich dimwit to a posting like Luxembourg or Monaco is no big thing. But sending an inarticulate dimwit like Caroline Kennedy to rep us in Japan is a major insult. I have no doubt Obama intended it as such.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I suppose, though, that rich, inarticulate, entitled, ignorant and naive as she is, Caroline Kennedy is quite a fitting representative of our government today.