Our Man in London: On Louis Susman’s appointment as ambassador to the U.K.

The retired Chicago businessman Louis Susman recently became the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, an appointment widely regarded as the prize for his ferocious fundraising on behalf of the Obama campaign. Derided by the British press as the “vacuum cleaner,” Susman is only the most prominent example of a continuing—and questionable—American tradition

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Louis Susman
“It’s a major job with major issues,” says the Obama-bundler-turned-ambassador Louis Susman of his post.

Last February, three months after raising more than half a million dollars for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, the retired Chicago investment banker Louis Susman took a call from the White House. Susman won’t say who was on the line—it was likely David Jacobson, the Chicago lawyer who worked for Obama during the campaign and went to Washington as Obama’s special assistant for presidential personnel—but Susman will repeat the question he was asked: “‘The president has an intent to nominate you [to be ambassador to the United Kingdom], and, if he does, would you accept?’”

Susman didn’t even pause to check with Marjorie, his wife of 50 years. “I accepted on the spot,” he recalled in a telephone interview from their new home in London.

No surprise that he didn’t need to think it over. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s—the official title—is widely considered the most coveted of the 185 ambassadorships the president has to offer. Susman’s predecessors include John Adams, who presented his credentials to King George III in 1785. Five envoys to England went on to become president, four vice president, and ten secretary of state.

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