Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Rat watch II

The plum assignment of the landed aristocracy in America is up for grabs. William S. Farish, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, has announced his decision to resign effective July 10. Much like the CIA’s George Tenet, he is leaving the post to turn his attention to “family and business.”

Ambassador Farish began his career as a stockbroker, then moved on to gas and oil before

Ambassador Farish

settling down on a 2,000-acre stud farm. He became chairman of Churchill Downs, the sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, before ascending to his post as ambassador.

His selection to the post seems to have been predicated on three qualities that stand over and above an undoubted plenitude of abilities. He’s obscenely rich; he’s a Bush supporter;1 and he has serviced—and continues to service—the Queen’s mares.

Perhaps having in mind the Queen’s horses, he noted in his resignation announcement that Americans and Britains "share a lot of cultural DNA."

For all his accomplishments, Ambassador Farish never lost the common touch. The BBC reports his observation that

[T]he British people see President Bush "as a plain-spoken man of principle who says what he believes"

Ambassador Farish made some 30-odd declarations during his three-year tenure and planted a rose bush. Those speeches and writings that were not associated with 9/11 were either in defense of the policies of George Bush or toward the promotion of business and globalization.

This past March, defending the President against the vicious attacks of Richard Clarke, he wrote in The Independent,

Can anyone give credence to the suggestion that President Bush didn't take seriously the threat of terrorism? Groucho Marx was once quoted as saying, "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?" A glance at President Bush's statements, and his actions, clearly demonstrate that he has given more attention to the threat of terrorism - and done more to defeat it - than any other president.

While some have questioned the wisdom of alluding to the Groucho Marx quote, Ambassador Farish stands by his statement.

Ambassador Farish took his role as representative of the United States Chamber of Commerce very seriously. As he noted to the Pilgrim’s Society,

Years of building up and running my own companies had prepared me to represent the interests of American businesses; to help them and their British counterparts do more business together, and to deal with the complexities of our economic relationship.

Speaking on globalization to the Institute of Directors Annual Convention, he remarked on its benefit to the Chinese.

In 1968, almost 80 percent of the shoes Americans bought were made in America. Thirty years later, the home-made proportion was just over 7 percent. These days, most of the shoes bought in America are made in China. Those three decades brought a lot of pain to American shoe-workers. More than 100 factories closed between 1978 and 1998 alone.

Today, those Americans may be working in retail2 or service jobs.3 And in China, income levels have been rising. Ask the shoe-makers in China if they would prefer to turn back the clock. Or if they would prefer to continue looking forward, to a day when their children might move out of manufacturing into a desk job.

On the economy he said,

The past two years have been full of shocks to American business, from the demise of the dot-com fantasy, to terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, to revelations of corporate fraud. Add all that to a slowdown that had already begun when President Bush took office, and we find ourselves living in unpredictable times.

It was to everyone's relief when they realized the slowdown “had already begun when President Bush took office.”

Concerning Enron and other scandals of the business community, he urged corporations to be cautious about being too cautious—

The heightened scrutiny of corporate practices has made an already risk-averse business community even more cautious - and that's bad for the economy. We must be careful, in the public and private sectors, to avoid over-reaction.
Corporate leaders, faced with gloomy forecasts, irate investors, and TV pictures of counterparts being led away in handcuffs, must avoid going into retreat mode.

But he reassured everyone at the gathering when he said,

We all know that the bad apples account for only a tiny minority of the business population. Most members of the business community are ethical pillars of their own and the global communities. Most have nothing to fear from laws that require transparency and fair treatment.

Ambassador Farish leaves Britain with a moist eye and a cherished memory—

I got a privilege in November last given to an American Ambassador in 1918: giving up my home so the President could host the British sovereign as part of a State visit. The evening was capped-off with West End singers almost blowing the windows out of my dining room with an extraordinary selection of Andrew Lloyd Webber's show tunes. But it was also punctuated by the family dog barking as the President began his toast.

Overall, a more representative representative will be hard to find, and we know that the British will miss him very much.

But speaking of replacements, it is believed that President Bush will make a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy. It is not yet clear who will be appointed, but Paul Bremer, lately of Iraq, is looking for work. The appointment of Paul Bremer to the British ambassadorship will surely heighten the regard in which the United States is held by the British people.


1 I simply cannot write this phrase without envisioning a Presidential truss [back]

2 Wal-Mart [back]

3 McDonalds [back]

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