Published May 27, 2009
WASHINGTON -- President Obama has picked a major Democratic fundraiser as ambassador to Britain, a theology professor to represent the United States at the Vatican and a former member of the 9/11 Commission to be the top U.S. diplomat in India.
The White House on Wednesday announced a slate of top diplomats in capitals from Tokyo to Paris. The group fills many of the highest profile jobs in the foreign service and will be crucial representatives of Obama and his State Department with U.S. allies.
"I am grateful that these distinguished Americans have agreed to help represent the United States and strengthen our partnerships abroad at this critical time for our nation and the world," Obama said in a statement. "I am confident they will advance American diplomacy as we work to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
For the plum London appointment, Obama turned to Louis Susman, a retired vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking. A former Salomon Brothers employee, he won a commission appointment from President Ronald Reagan and was a director for the St. Louis Cardinals for more than a decade.
He also has raised hundreds of millions in campaign donations for Democrats.
The White House also announced it plans to nominate Miguel H. Diaz, an associate professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., for the top job at the Vatican.
A Roman Catholic theologian, the Cuban-American advised Obama's presidential campaign. He also was among 26 Catholics who signed a statement supporting the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic whose support for abortion rights was criticized by conservative Catholics.
And Obama nominated former U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana to be his ambassador to New Delhi. The former Sept. 11 commissioner endorsed Obama during his primary campaign and was a strong advocate of Obama's foreign policy approach.
He now faces a tough challenges in New Dehli, where U.S. and Indian interests are deeply linked.
"I believe that many of things we want to get done in the world cannot be done without India, and many things India would like to get done cannot get done without the United States," said Frank Wisner, who was President Bill Clinton's ambassador to New Dehli.
For instance, the stalled trade talks that began in Doha need India's support, and New Dehli's quest for a seat on the United Nations Security Council needs U.S. support, Wisner said. And both countries need a shared stance as they negotiate any climate change agreements.
To other capitals, Obama planned to nominate Charles Rivkin, an outside homeland security adviser, to France. A former financial analyst, he also ran entertainment companies such as The Jim Henson Co. and Wild Brain, Inc.
And Obama tapped Internet and biotechnology lawyer John Roos as the United States' top diplomat to Japan. As the top executive at a Palo Alto, Calif., law firm, he helped raise money for startup companies and has represented major technology companies.
Vilma Martinez, a former president and counsel of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, would head to Argentina. She is now a commercial attorney who advises companies on employment law.
And Obama nominated a partner in a top Washington law firm as his voice in Denmark. Laurie Fulton of Williams and Connolly already has won Senate confirmation as a director of the U.S. Institute of Peace and has advised nonprofit groups such as the Girl Scouts.
Obama turned to a 20-year U.S. Army Reserve chaplain as the United States' representative to the African Union, a position carries the rank of ambassador. Michael Battle worked at several universities and now is president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
In other posts, Obama turned to longtime foreign service ministers:
-- Christopher Dell, currently a diplomat in Afghanistan, was tapped as the ambassador to Kosovo. He previously spent two years there as chief of mission and has worked in Angola, Zimbabwe and Bulgaria.
-- Patricia A. Butenis, a diplomat in Iraq, would be the United States' top voice in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. She previously was ambassador to Bangladesh and worked in Pakistan, El Salvador and India.
The posts all require Senate confirmation.