As Michael Rubin wrote last week, President Obama’s potential nomination of top donor and Vogue editor Anna Wintour as ambassador to either the UK or France is problematic for a number of reasons. Jake Tapper examined one major reason–it would be the latest example of Obama’s broken 2008 promise to get rid of the political spoils system in Washington–in a video today (h/t HotAir):
Rumor has it that President Obama is considering Vogue editor Anna Wintour to be his second-term nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. After World War II, well-known public figures and intellectuals such as W. Averell Harriman, Walter Annenberg, and Kingman Brewster, Jr., have held the post. In recent decades, however, presidents have transformed the top slot into a plumb reward for top donors. Leading the London Embassy has become more about style than diplomacy. George W. Bush, for example, chose Robert Tuttle, who had raised more than $200,000 for the president. For his first term, Obama chose Louis Susman, a top fundraiser.
Wintour may be pushing pay-for-position rewards a bit too far. The problem isn’t her fundraising, but rather her judgment. Syria remains a top foreign policy concern for the United States and, should Bashar al-Assad’s forces use chemical weapons, it could be the source of the 3 a.m. phone call Obama fears most. As editor of Vogue, however, Wintour published the infamous and groveling profile of Asma al-Assad, Bashar’s wife. She defended the piece for months, even as Assad’s forces committed the most grizzly abuses against Syrian men, women, and children, refusing to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. In recent months, Wintour sought to distance herself from the profile, and removed it from the Internet.
After Obama’s attempt to reassure the public about the economic recovery fell flat Thursday, he jetted off to a celebrity fundraiser in Manhattan hosted by Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker — and the contrast could not have been more tone-deaf. As AP reports, Obama seemed to temporarily abandon his middle class warrior routine, telling the $40,000-a-plate dinner guests that they were the “ultimate arbiter” of the country’s future:
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation’s future.
“You’re the tie-breaker,” he said. “You’re the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes.”
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama’s remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent.
As a gesture of egalitarianism, there was one non-paying, no-name guest who had won a $3 Obama campaign raffle and was able to attend the fundraiser as a “prize” (how benevolent of the campaign).
The celebrity hostesses also reportedly promoted the Obama campaign’s Runway to Win line, a collection of t-shirts and tote bags “designed” by celebrities and fashion designers and sold on Obama’s campaign site. The products are as awful as you can imagine. Would Anna Wintour ever let her skin touch this monstrosity designed by Beyonce? Or this mess (allegedly) designed by Prabal Gurung? Unlikely. But for $45-and-up, brand-obsessed Obama fans can look like they just bought a t-shirt sewn by a Chinese child laborer from the back of an unlicensed D.C. souvenir truck.
The New York Times has an amusing article today about how Bashar al-Assad, and his well-dressed wife, Asma, tried to buff their reputation in the West with the help of avaricious public affairs consultants and credulous journalists. As the article notes: “In March 2011, just as Mr. Assad and his security forces initiated a brutal crackdown on political opponents that has led to the death of an estimated 10,000 Syrians, Vogue magazine ran a flattering profile of the first lady, describing her as walking ‘a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles,’ a reference to her Christian Louboutin heels.”
The author of that embarrassing Vogue article, Joan Juliet Buck, explained that Mrs. Assad was “extremely thin and very well-dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue.” Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, apparently no longer thinks that article was such a hot idea. She has taken it off Vogue’s web site and explained to the Times: “Like many at that time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society. Subsequent to our interview, as the terrible events of the past year and a half unfolded in Syria, it became clear that its priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue.”
It’s good to hear that mass murder, even when overseen by the expensively attired and perfectly coifed, is “at odds” with Vogue’s “values,” whatever those might be. But only someone so intensely focused on her Manolo Blahniks as Wintour could possibly have missed the copious signs that the junior Assad, like his odious old man, was not exactly a paragon of virtue even before the start of last year’s uprising–indeed the whole reason the uprising started was because of the harshness of his rule.