Which Trump-appointed ambassador is not like all the others? Is it a) the dermatologist, b) the cosmetics queen, c) the chiropractor, or d) the pharmaceuticals heir?
The answer is “b,” the cosmetics queen, Georgette Mosbacher, the U.S. ambassador to Poland.
And we’ll get to her in a moment.
Four years ago, Trump boasted he’d put “America first” in any foreign-policy decisions. This week he showed once again it’s not really America first so much as Trump first. On Thursday he did what he does best: grab the credit. He announced that Israel and the U.A.E. had reached a breakthrough deal—even though the shrewd diplomat here is Benjamin Netanyahu, who allowed the president to break the news via Twitter.
So it seems like a good time to look at Trump’s foreign-policy record and note one of the few exceptions in an otherwise dizzying carousel of inept, boorish, and unprincipled ambassadors that make up the Trump diplomatic corps. Needless to say, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who helped the Trump Organization shirk its bills, is not an exception to the rule. Nor, for that matter, is First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner, whose much-vaunted, three-years-in-the-making Middle East peace plan fizzled on arrival last winter.
Which brings us to Mosbacher. In the sad crew of Trump-selected ambassadors, she’s just about the only one who is not a mess. Her qualifications may seem a bit hazy—the flame-haired socialite made her mark with La Prairie cosmetics and by marrying well, especially the third time, to Robert Mosbacher, a Texas oil-and-gas mogul.
But Mosbacher, 73, a longtime G.O.P. fundraiser and donor, appears to be the one political appointee overseas who is actually trying to represent American ideals and interests, not Trump’s re-election schemes or golf resorts. Mosbacher has taken the Polish government to task for suppressing L.G.B.T.Q. rights and trying to muzzle the press. Also, the anti-Semites there hate her: Mosbacher became a right-wing hate meme just by tweeting “Happy Passover” (as well as “Happy Easter”) in Polish.
Mosbacher can’t help but look good next to “d,” Woody Johnson, a Johnson & Johnson heir who owns the always-losing New York Jets and gave the Trump inaugural committee $1 million before being named ambassador to Great Britain. This week, a State Department investigation concluded that Johnson made “inappropriate or insensitive” remarks to staff. Johnson is also said to have lobbied a Scottish-government official to move the British Open golf tournament to Trump’s money-losing Turnberry golf resort, in Scotland. When Mike Pompeo and his wife visited London in July, Johnson served wine from the Trump Winery, in Virginia. (It’s awful. We’ve tasted it.)
Also, the anti-Semites hate her: Mosbacher became a right-wing hate meme just by tweeting “Happy Passover.”
In July, Jeffrey Ross Gunter (“a”), the dermatologist, was barely one year into his tenure heading the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavík when he offended the entire population of Iceland by asking for special permission to carry a gun. Gunter also wanted armed bodyguards, an armored car, and a stab-proof vest—this in a country so safe that the prime minister bicycles to work.
Carla Sands (“c”), the chiropractor, married a real-estate mogul and is now the U.S. ambassador to Denmark. She is mostly known there for having disinvited an American scholar from a NATO conference because he posted an unflattering tweet about Trump.
On July 30, his ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, a former congressman and a founder of the Tea Party, visited a Dutch cemetery where many Nazis are buried—including members of the Waffen-SS—and tweeted that the graves there are a “terrible reminder of the cost of going to war.”
Actually, there aren’t enough letters in the alphabet to cover all of Trump’s bad choices, but we can give an F to Lynda Blanchard, wife of an Alabama real-estate magnate. The ambassador to Melania Trump’s homeland of Slovenia brings an evangelical zeal to the job. On Election Day 2016, she posted, “May God our Father paint this country Red with the Blood of Jesus!”
It’s not a mystery why so many are so embarrassing: more than 40 percent of Trump’s ambassadors are political appointees and not career diplomats—a higher proportion than in any administration since F.D.R.’s—and most of them distinguished themselves by donating an average of $350,000 to the Trump inaugural committee, which, unlike others in recent history, removed limits on donations.
Mosbacher made a few early gaffes of her own—in a 2018 letter protesting government efforts to muzzle an independent television-news station that is American-owned, she misspelled the name of the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, as well as that of the interior minister. But at least her heart was in the right place, as it was in May when, in response to the government’s crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. protests, Mosbacher joined ambassadors from Canada and New Zealand in a video under the banner “Equality for all.”
This week’s news reminds us once again that even though Israel is a democracy, Netanyahu, a.k.a. “King Bibi,” is Trump’s kind of foreign leader—a hawkish would-be autocrat. Let’s not forget how eagerly Trump cozies up to authoritarians who rule without checks and balances, such as Polish president Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary, while snubbing democratic allies. (Pompeo was in Eastern Europe this week, in part to work out where to put the 12,000 U.S. troops Trump wants to remove from Germany and re-deploy further East, including in Poland.)
U.S. embassies have traditionally provided a democratic model for citizens at odds with their own governments. Except when Trump appointees take over. Then they focus less on exporting democracy and more on promoting the president’s business interests.
Mosbacher once published a self-help book called It Takes Money, Honey, which sounds like the perfect title for a how-to guide for aspiring ambassadors. But Mosbacher is one wealthy Republican donor who is at least trying to serve her country, and not just the Trump agenda.
Consider it a small bright side.