Say what you want about the ethical swamp of ambassadorial appointments, but this actually looks like an elegant way to take out two birds with one stone. Could Joe Biden help Gavin Newsom survive a recall election by nominating Richard Blum to a high-profile posting … and hope he takes his wife with him? Blum, a major Democrat donor and Biden backer, is also married to Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Interestingly, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin suggests that the idea isn’t coming from Newsom or Chuck Schumer, but from Blum himself — at least tacitly:
Richard Blum, a wealthy investor and the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, has indicated to President Biden’s advisers that he’s interested in being appointed to an ambassadorship, a move that would renew questions about Ms. Feinstein’s political future.
Mr. Blum, according to Democrats in California and Washington, is eyeing a European capital, a posting that could pave the way for the 87-year-old Ms. Feinstein to leave the Senate. In November, she agreed to relinquish her ranking position on the Judiciary Committee under pressure from Senator Chuck Schumer, now the majority leader, and other Democrats.
Should Mr. Blum, 85, be appointed and Ms. Feinstein join him overseas, it could solve an increasingly awkward problem for Democrats.
Blum’s action itself seems curious, if Martin’s sources are correct about it. Why would Blum start pushing now for an ambassadorial appointment? With both he and his wife being octagenarians, it would be unlikely that Blum plans to spend his time abroad alone or leave his wife by herself in DC alone either. Even if the rumors about Feinstein’s supposed decline in mental acuity are just rancid gossip intended as a pressure campaign, that’s late in life for either to go solo, especially after forty years of marriage.
This does make it sound as though Blum himself might be looking for a face-saving exit for his wife from Washington. Would Biden take advantage of the opening? Martin reports that Biden’s “open” to giving Blum an ambassadorship, despite concerns over the traditional use of donors for these diplomatic positions. It would certainly solve some of Schumer’s problems in the Senate, but mostly would give Newsom the opportunity to pander to black women that he passed up in his appointment of Alex Padilla to the open Senate seat created by now-VP Kamala Harris’ win as Biden’s running mate.
One has to wonder whether this wasn’t already in the works before Newsom put his foot in his mouth on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show, too. As I wrote yesterday, why would Newsom be putting together lists of replacements for Feinstein unless there was an indication those candidates might need to be called soon? If Blum’s hitting Biden up for an appointment, though, Newsom might have either been warned to expect an opening soon or just assumed Biden would cooperate in this grand-shift strategy. If that’s the case, then Newsom’s stumble was even more foolish than first thought.
Even so, it’s tough to see Biden turning this down. In the first place, Blum has been a long-time donor to the Democrats, which is usually rewarded with ambassadorial appointments as an incentive for others to follow. His party would like Feinstein out of the way, and Newsom needs to shore up his party’s strength in California lest a Republican win his office in a recall fluke. (It happened in 2003, let’s not forget.) This solves a number of problems for progressives in Biden’s coalition. It’s almost a no-brainer, especially if Blum himself is pushing for it.
Addendum: I’d like to remind the White House that they could get rid of me too by fulfilling the #Morrissey4Ireland campaign and appointing me ambassador. On Lá Fhéile Pádraig, it might be even sweeter. I’ve still got my $5 donation at the ready, so it’s not as though I don’t know the secret password — an t-airgead.