News broke today that President Obama is considering offering the position of the next U.S. Ambassadorship to Great Britain to Anna Wintour, the editor of fashion magazine Vogue. This caused at least one Brit to call the whole idea “ludicrous.”
Indeed, the offer seems incomprehensible. To offer the ambassadorship to one of our most important allies to a prickly, sullen, misanthrope like Wintour defies logic. Aside from her arrogant, self-important attitude, it doesn’t even appear that she has any qualifications, temperament or otherwise, to take such an important role.
As Nile Gardiner of the British newspaper The Telegraph notes, Wintour doesn’t measure up in stature and intellect to some of our past ambassadors. Noting that John Adams, James Monroe, John Q. Adams, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, Andrew Mellon, and W. Averell Harriman were some of our past ambassadors to the Court of St. James’s, Gardiner finds the whole idea of Wintour joining those illustrious Americans a “ludicrous” idea.
Gardiner goes on to point out that Wintour was a huge donor and fundraiser for Obama’s recent re-election contest — she raised some 40 million bucks — but rightly said that raising money should not be the sole qualification for a post that is “hugely important to U.S. interests.” The ambassadorship to Great Britain “should not be seen as a sinecure for donors to presidential campaigns,” Gardiner said.
Another writer for The Telegraph also criticized the President for this trial balloon. Calling Wintour’s appointment “a comic idea,” Thomas Pascoe went on to blast the possible appointment as a horrible idea.
While Wintour for Britain would have been a comic suggestion under any other president, it may well be that the leader of the free world believes he can find his most effective emissaries in the boardroom of Vogue. If he does, the connection between two of the most image-led, substance-light leaderships on earth will be a woman whose life has been spent attempting to give meaning and depth to the facile world of fashion.
You may remember Wintour during the late presidential campaign for her brilliant fundraising idea of holding a drawing for two lucky Obama fans to win a dinner with Wintour, the Obamas and actress Sarah Jessica Parker of the sex-romp cable TV series Sex in the City. The two lucky commoners were to hobnob with the rich and famous in Parker’s New York City home.
But that dinner was not to occur before Wintour gave Parker’s home decor a total makeover. The fashionable New York Apartment was just “too shabby” for Wintour’s tastes. So, she totally redecorated the actress’ home.
Wintour is also well known for being the model of the fictional martinet character in the 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada. In the film, the shrew-like character based on Wintour was played by Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep.
Wintour has a great reputation for being, shall we say, “regal”? The Vogue editor is famous for her refusal to speak to people she feels are lower than she, for refusing to have anything to do with others in the fashion industry media corps, and for being a horribly demanding and unyielding boss.
She is also as hatefully partisan in her politics as she is arrogant in personal relations. In October of this year, before the election, New Yorkers were buzzing about how Wintour began a campaign of intimidating designers demanding that they refuse to deal with Republicans.
Wintour has been involved in other snubbings, too. In 2010 it was said that Vogue refused to allow the plus-sized actress Gabourey Sidibe appear on its cover because she was just too fat for Anna Wintour’s tastes.
But Wintour’s worst misstep was her commission of a slobbering puff piece of the wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The absurd piece was headlined “The Rose of the Desert,” and was so bad that the magazine eventually scrubbed the whole thing from its website, sending the loving portrayal of a brutal dictator down the Internet memory hole.
Wintour’s famed fashion magazine explained its decision to include Mrs. Assad in Vogue saying she was “extremely thin and very well-dressed, and therefore qualified” to appear in the magazine. I guess even with the Assad’s massacres, murders, imprisonments, oppressions, and torturing of their own people it didn’t occur to Wintour that such things could be a possible disqualifyer for a glowing feature in the world’s leading fashion magazine.
No wonder Obama thought she was so well qualified to be our next ambassador to Britain. She’s shown such a wonderful history of decision-making, hasn’t she?
In the end, though, Wintour may not even be interested in dropping her role as America’s top fashion editor. In March of this year when she first began to get heavily involved in the Obama campaign, she was asked about taking a role in Washington should Barack win re-election. She shot the idea down saying, “With all the new media outlets out there, with all the noise, a voice of authority and calm like Vogue becomes more important than ever. The more eyes on fashion, the more opinions about fashion, the more exploration of fashion around the world, the better it is for Vogue. Vogue is like Nike or Coca-Cola — this huge global brand. I want to enhance it, I want to protect it, and I want it to be part of the conversation.”
Should she eschew the offer of an ambassadorship to stay at the head of