It’s supposed to be the friendliest country in the world. That’s what we’re told. We’re also told that that sport plays a big role in the culture there and we are a huge, huge sports family. Gail Brown, wife of the ambassador-elect
Has Trump made a rare good decision?
By Roger Childs
The president nominated former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown as the new ambassador to New Zealand back in April. There was an over the top knee-jerk reaction from some of the local media, who highlighted disparate elements of his past to conclude that he was a highly unsuitable candidate.
Posing naked for Cosmopolitan (more than 15 years ago); support for waterboarding (five years ago); sexual harassment charges at Fox News (nothing has come of this), and just wanting to come to New Zealand to cycle (a comment from 2015 before being nominated), were elements of the “evidence”.
In fact, Brown has the credentials to be a very good ambassador, even though he has a hard act to follow.
An exemplary ambassadorial couple
Mark and Nancy Gilbert were great ambassadors for the United States of America. They handled the formal occasions with appropriate decorum and dignity, and then mixed easily with people of all ages.
There was never the impression that they had to get away after official occasions and they clearly enjoyed the interaction with New Zealanders.
They were happy to pose for anyone who wanted a picture. The immaculately attired Marines in their dress uniforms and medals, often feature in such photos.
At the 2015 Memorial Day Service in Queen Elizabeth Park, with the official duties over, Ambassador Gilbert saw one of the old Wellington trams heading back to the terminus carrying embassy Marines and Paekakariki school children. With a shout of I want a ride on that tram! he jogged across the road and jumped on.
While Embassy security held their breath, the former Red Sox baseball player mounted the moving tram with no problem.
Diplomats are political appointments
The president selects ambassadors, who are then approved by the Senate. Sadly with a Republican replacing Democrat Barack Obama, the Gilberts were ordered to return home.
There are some career ambassadors in the American diplomatic service, but most are friends and acquaintances of the president. Supporting the election campaign can lead to a cushy post overseas once the new man takes office. (Mark Gilbert had been a very successful fund raiser for Obama.)
Scott Brown was an early supporter of the Trump campaign, and a posting to New Zealand is his reward.
Scott Brown had a difficult upbringing. My mom and dad got married when they were very young. Mom was 18 and Dad was 20 and were divorced a year later … my mum and dad were divorced four times each, and I lived in 17 houses by the time I was 18. His mother was on welfare for a while and life was hard, so Scott Brown definitely didn’t grow up living the American dream.
Brown came through all this to get a legal degree and work as a lawyer for a number of years. He also served in the military, including time in Afghanistan and had six years in the Massachusetts legislature, as well as three years as Senator.
A former US attorney in Massachusetts commented: I think Scott Brown would be a terrific selection as a diplomat on behalf of the United States. He’s got terrific interpersonal skills, great instincts, highly regarded, well thought of.
Ambassadorial appointments sometimes take a while to get through the Senate, Mark Gilbert had to wait nearly two years. Scott Brown’s nomination was quickly confirmed 94-4.
On the basis of his credentials and life experience, Brown may well be an excellent choice for New Zealand.