On Wednesday, multiple outlets and officials close to the Ambassador selection process reported that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti would likely be nominated as the next Ambassador to India.
President Joe Biden has not formally announced any ambassadorship picks since coming into office in January, opting instead to announce all of his picks at once. Other likely picks reported Wednesday include former Chicago Mayor and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan and several close donors to prominent North American and European posts.
On Thursday, the White House, the Department of State and the LA Mayor’s office all declined to comment on Garcetti’s likely nomination.
“No one is final until they’re announced,” said a White House official to a press question on Wednesday.
Garcetti, who has been Mayor of Los Angeles since 2013, and was previously on the LA City Council from 2001 until 2013, had earlier turned down an undisclosed position in the Biden Administration in December of last year, choosing to instead to stay Mayor of the country’s second largest city. However, Garcetti has remained close to Biden and has been one of his top supporters for many years, with Garcetti favoring Biden over other Democratic candidates, including California Senator Kamala Harris, during the presidential race last year. He served both as co-chair on Biden’s presidential campaign and co-chair of his inauguration committee.
The ambassadorship is being viewed by many insiders as a reward for Garcetti’s longtime political support and allegiance to Biden, as Garcetti has few ties to India and has never served an international post before. Garcetti’s popularity has also slipped in recent years, leading many to further question Biden’s decision.
Eric Garcetti and India
“A lot of important ambassadorship posts are going to non-political, longtime state department officials,” explained Harry Walker, a former lawyer specializing in international law who assisted many ambassadors and consuls in Europe and Northern Africa, to the Globe on Thursday. “China and Israel in particular are going to guys who know those countries inside out and have had decades in international relations experience.”
“And normally, the President usually gives allied European spots, and especially ones in the Caribbean or Oceania, to top donors or backers or as sunset posts to officials who want a nice place to end their careers. But with Garcetti, India is one of the more important ambassadorships, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience with the country. It’s too politically and economically important for just a reward position.”
“India is still going through a tough COVID-19 battle, and Los Angeles in particular had seen equally bad bursts of COVID several times last year. So, maybe Garcetti going in as Ambassador to help guide them through it and tell them what to do following a large-scale pandemic could be the thinking here. But that’s also a very one-issue thing too. When it comes to Indian relations with Pakistan or China, or an economic shift towards being post-industrial, Garcetti may be a bit in the weeds.”
“If he is selected, he’ll need to pick one hell of a staff to help him guide through this. He can shine on COVID-19 issues, but he’ll be in the dark on a lot of other issues.”
If selected and accepted, either a special election or LA City Council appointment would temporarily fill the Mayoral position in LA, as Garcetti’s term is set to expire in December 2022.
An official announcement of final Ambassadorship picks from the White House is expected to be made by June. If nominated, Garcetti would then need to be approved by the U.S. Senate.
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