President Obama Thursday nominated, Patrick Gaspard – a longtime political operative, union activist, and community organizer with no diplomatic experience – to be U.S. ambassador to South Africa.
Gaspard, currently the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, is an Obama political fixer – and not even the president’s top one, having been overshadowed by giants like David Plouffe, Jim Messina, and David Axelrod.
But he has been close to Obama since at least 2008, when he served as political director for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He was political affairs director at the White House from 2009-2011 before moving to the DNC, and has now been rewarded by Obama with a plum diplomatic assignement.
South Africa is the most important country to the United States in sub-Saharan Africa. It has by far the largest GDP of any country on the continent of Africa and wields enormous influence throughout the region.
Gaspard served nearly a decade as the political chief for the New York City branch of the Service Employees International Union. He has worked on the presidential bids of Jesse Jackson and Howard Dean, the 1989 mayoral campaign of former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and for many other candidates.
And he’s not above conducting some rather undiplomatic behavior, tweeting after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, “it’s constitutional. Bitches.”
Gaspard was, however, born in Africa to Haitian parents. But he left the continent when he was three.
Obama heads to South Africa Friday for the second stop on his trip to the continent.