Rumor has it that the queen of fashion could be hobnobbing with the Queen of England this fall. Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief, has been ranked a "top bundler" by Obama's reelection campaign, and there's buzz that her campaign efforts could win her the prestigious U.S. ambassadorship in London.
[It] is Wintour's role in promoting fashion and luxury goods manufacturing as an important US export business, coupled with her growing political fundraising acumen (according to the Obama campaign, she is a "top bundler", raising more than $500,000 for the Obama Victory Fund) that led to speculation she is eyeing a political position.
Wintour, who has been at the helm of the magazine for more than 20 years, has consistently dismissed the suggestion she may be considering a new position. But her personal life – her long-term Texan consort Shelby Bryan was a key Clinton-era fundraiser – and her adept use of professional power make a political appointment a natural move. And vigorous political fundraising is typically key to a posting such as London, as opposed to a career-diplomat position in a less socially hospitable location.
In recent years, the London ambassadorship has typically been reassigned with each new presidential term as reward for services rendered. President Bush appointed financial backers William Farish, a multimillionaire Texan, and Robert Tuttle, a California car dealer, as ambassadors to London.
The current ambassador, Louis Susman, 74, was appointed by Obama in 2008. As a retired vice-president of Citigroup, Susman had little foreign policy experience but was known as "the vacuum cleaner" because of his ability to hoover up campaign cash in Chicago. Sir Nigel Sheinwald, then serving UK ambassador to Washington, controversially described Susman as "aloof" and "decidedly liberal".
Indeed, Wintour has been one of Obama's most prolific celebrity fundraisers, having recently done a fashion show event with Scarlett Johansson, a dinner with Sarah Jessica Parker, and this week, she heads to Chicago with Jim Messina for a dinner with Iman. It's a step up from her efforts for Obama in 2008, although she has dressed Michelle Obama repeatedly throughout her tenure as First Lady.
That said, she's one of 117 "top bundlers," who raise over $500,000, so Obama has many donors to consider when handing out favors, should he win reelection this fall. Some speculate that Wintour is not, in fact, angling for a place in the administration, but that she's simply going to the trouble for her principles. Perhaps. Others note that her brother is the Guardian's political editor (that paper being the one that first sparked the rumor), so it's possible that they have some inside scoop on the matter.
But whether or not she gets the job, it's a great time to remind ourselves of candidate Obama's words five years back:
In early 2007, the candidate derided special interests who he said “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.”
“They write the checks and you get stuck with the bill. They get the access while you get to write a letter. They think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back,” he said.
And now, here we are, having a conversation about Wintour winning the London ambassadorship.
Er, what was that about abolishing politics as usual?