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Can't Buy Me Love? What About An Ambassadorship?

I'm long since past the point of outrage — or even surprise — when a big money-giver to a presidential candidate gets a plum ambassadorship somewhere.

It's the way of Washington. But somehow, in listening to his "change" campaign for president, I wondered if Barack Obama would be somewhat different from some of his predecessors.

Well, according to a great piece this morning by The Washington Post's Al Kamen, Obama has in many ways gone much further than Bill Clinton, who appointed some Dem moneybags to ambassadorships. It's not even close.

Kamen outlines the differences between the two presidents' approach:

Clinton tended to pick people with experience in public policy — if not international policy — for the important embassies. His big donors were generally given jobs in smaller countries in eastern or northern Europe where they could do little lasting harm.

There are, of course, no hard rules on these matters. There is no consensus that just being rich is necessarily a bad thing, though most observers suggest that complete cluelessness is to be avoided, if possible.

A chart that accompanies his column — which is somehow not available on the Web site — illustrates the difference.

For ambassador to Great Britain, Clinton chose Adm. William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who gave no money to the Clinton campaign. Obama picked businessman Louis Susman, an Obama fundraiser who either raised or contributed $735,000 for Democratic candidates during the previous three election cycles.

For France, Clinton chose legendary Democratic fundraiser Pamela Harriman, who raised/contributed $99,000 in the three-year period. Obama picked one of his fundraisers, Charles Rivkin, who raised/contributed $883,000.

For Japan, Clinton chose former Vice President Walter Mondale. Obama picked another fundraiser, John Roos, a Silicon Valley attorney, who raised/contributed $545,000.

For South Africa, Clinton chose James Joseph, a former undersecretary of interior whose total was $700. Obama picked communications executive Donald Gips (total: $553,000).

For Spain, Clinton chose Richard Gardner, a former ambassador to Italy ($6,300). Obama picked Boston financier Alan Solomont (total: $1.4 million).

Change you can believe in? That sure is a lot of change.

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