Who will Joe Biden pick as UK envoy? Disney chief Bob Iger, aide Ted Kaufman and ex-envoy James Costos in fray
The race for the plum diplomatic post is apparently crowded with reports suggesting that John McCain's widow Cindy and even former President Barack Obama may be picked
Ever since Joe Biden took up the mantle as the president of the US, the speculation over who will be the next American ambassador to the UK has become intense. While there have been reports that Cindy McCain, the widow of late Arizona Republican senator John McCain, could be picked for the post after she helped Biden win the red state in the 2020 presidential election. Even former President Barack Obama’s name has done the rounds as the next envoy to the European ally.
And now, more reports have started emerging suggesting that the list is even longer. According to Daily Mail, Bob Iger, chairman of The Walt Disney Company, James Costos, a former US ambassador to Spain and Andorra with ties with Hollywood, and Ted Kaufman, a close aide to President Biden, were also in the race to become the ambassador to the UK, considered the most plum diplomatic assignment.
Also given the benefits that come with the post, the ambassadorship to the UK is often given by presidents to supporters as the ultimate reward for their loyalty or fund-raising or both.
Bob Iger donated for Biden last year
Iger, whose contract as the chairman of Walt Disney will end in December this year, is known to be politically ambitious. Last December, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Iger, who will turn 70 next week, is in the fray for an ambassadorial position under the Biden administration.
“It appears that Bob Iger might have a future in public service after all. The Disney executive chairman, who once toyed with the idea of a 2020 presidential run, is at the top of President-elect Joe Biden’s wish list for a key ambassador post, namely China or the UK,” HR cited sources as saying.
Iger donated $500,000 to the Biden Victory Fund, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and once had a talk with Prince Harris in London where the latter told him that Meghan, his wife, was interested in doing voiceover for Disney, the Mail added.
Costos did well to his reputation as Obama envoy
The 57-year-old Costos has been a major fundraiser for Biden and enjoys close ties with former President Obama and his wife Michelle. According to FEC reports, the former envoy to Europe, who is openly gay, donated $50,000 to the Biden Victory Fund this year and $35,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Costos, whose partner is interior designer Michael S Smith, was an executive at HBO when Obama picked him as the envoy in mid-2013.
The Mail cited a source in the diplomatic circles to say that Costos earned a name for himself as the envoy. Costos and Smith took to redecorate the ambassador’s residence in Madrid at considerable personal expenses and donated much of what they paid for to the home for the future envoys. Smith also decorated the Oval Office and the private family quarters in the White House when the Obamas stayed there.
Kaufman has been one of Biden's closest aides
Kaufman, on the other hand, is a politician and former businessman and one of the oldest allies of Biden, so much so that he is even called the president's "twin". The veteran, who will turn 81 in March, succeeded Biden as the senator from Delaware in 2009, served as the final chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (2010-11) and as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (1995-2008).
It will be the ultimate reward for Kaufman if he is nominated for the post of ambassador to the UK. Kaufman is known to have strong links to the UK as one of his daughters Meg and her family live in London. She also works for an England-based economic think tank called Centre for Cities.
Kaufman and Biden have been particularly close as they often commuted on the train together between DC and Wilmington. When Biden underwent surgery for two brain aneurysms that temporarily sidelined him from the Senate in the late 1980s, it was Kaufman who kept the office running.
Mike Bloomberg's name also doing rounds
Besides the above names, that of former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has also been found to be floating for the top diplomatic job. Bloomberg, who was in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination for a brief period before backing Biden’s run, has reportedly expressed interest to become an envoy to the UK, the Mail reported.
The 78-year-old has a lot of connections with London and his ex-wife is British and his daughters Georgina and Emma hold British passports. His company also has a good presence in London’s financial district.
The Biden administration is under pressure to have the new envoy to the UK in place ahead of the G7 meeting in the UK this June. Plans are on to hold the summit physically in Cornwall in southwest England and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has personally requested Biden to attend the summit when the two leaders talked over the phone in January.
“From the administration's perspective it would be nice to have the new ambassador in place for that event,” Lew Lukens, former US Deputy Chief of Mission in London and currently Senior Partner with Signum Global Advisors, was quoted by DailyMail.com as saying. “And what a great sort of debut for the new ambassador,” he said.
Except for naming Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the ambassador to the UN, Biden is yet to name a single envoy to a country and it is yet unclear as to when he will name the first batch of envoys which would likely include ambassadors to France, China, European Union and Israel, besides the UK.
Former President Donald Trump was quick to nominate Woody Johnson as the US ambassador to the UK in 2017, the year he took office, while his predecessor Obama named his first round of ambassadors to the UK, France, India and China in May 2009, four months after being sworn in.