Thursday, August 20, 2009

Connections Count in Obamaland

According to the website of the Dutch Royal House (Dutch), U.S Ambassador to The Netherlands, Fay Hartog-Levin, has presented her credentials to the queen today. NRC/international reports today that Ms. Hartog-Levin has traveled a very interesting road indeed. She has Dutch roots.
Hartog-Levin's parents were Dutch Jews who lived in The Hague and owned a meat-processing factory in Oss. When World War II broke out, they fled to Suriname, then a Dutch colony, where her father served in the Dutch army. In 1948 the family emigrated to the US, where daughter Fay was born shortly afterwards.
Those Dutch family roots notwithstanding, the newspaper highlights her connections to the Chicago elite and US pols.

She became acquainted with Obama through her membership on the board of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.
She is also connected to the president through her husband, Daniel Levin, who founded a real estate firm, The Habitat Company. Habitat's CEO until recently was Valerie Jarrett, a good friend of the Obamas and currently a senior adviser to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs. Jarrett was also on Obama's transition team.

Levin, who is a cousin to both senator Carl Levin and congressman Sandy Levin, was also on the board of the Chicago sports club where president Obama often worked out and played basket-ball. The Hartog-Levins were contributors to Barack Obama's campaigns for both the US senate and the presidency.
Not surprising at all, Hartog-Levin's new position is typical of US ambassadorial appointments. Even Obamafreaks who rallied for his message of change will find that money trumps merit.

From the sidebar in the NRC report, a list of previous ambassadors to The Netherlands:

All the president's men and women

  • Most US ambassadors to the Netherlands have come from a business background and were involved in fundraising for their respective presidents' election campaigns.

  • Fay Hartog-Levin replaces James B. Culbertson as US ambassador. Culbertson was only in office for six months; he replaced his predecessor Roland Arnall who suddenly died in March last year. Arnall left the Netherlands after two years just weeks before his own death because his son had taken seriously ill. Arnall was controversial because his company, Ameriquest, was the market leader in the high-risk subprime mortgages which led to the current economic crisis.

  • Arnall's predecessor Clifford Sobel was a donor to former president George W. Bush's campaign.

  • The last female US ambassador to the Netherlands was Cynthia Schneider (1998-2001), an art historian specialised in Rembrandt, and a personal friend and fundraiser to president Bill Clinton.
  • Cross posted at Antemedius and The Peace Tree.

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