Is Vogue editrix and roman à clef supervillain Anna Wintour qualified to succeed Louis Susman as the U.S. ambassador to the U.K.? That's the question everyone, with varying degrees of thinly-veiled sexism, seems to be asking after rumors started gamboling wildly about the press that Wintour was President Obama's top pick for the diplomatic gig. Observers like The Guardian's Catherine Bennett, for instance, don't see a Wintour appointment as playing out particularly well, but not necessarily because the sartorial suzerain has a huge dearth of diplomatic experience — it's because that Wintour is almost too qualified to deal with the passive aggressive quibbling that is diplomacy. Also because she's under-qualified, but that's really beside the point, isn't it? Diplomatting, especially for a U.S. fashion editor in King Arthur's court, is the easiest job in the world.
Where ABC's Jake Tapper went all-in on the fictional character fallacy in citing The Devil Wears Prada during a White House press conference with Jay Carney about Wintour's diplomatic "character," Bennett correctly points out that being a tyrannical boss isn't necessarily a dealbreaker when it comes to being an ambassador. In two paragaphs, Bennett explains that, although The Devil Wears Prada may be a bad movie/book (she calls it a "whiny roman à clef"), if it offers us an accurate appraisal of Wintour's character, then her reputed prickliness doesn't necessarily disqualify her from a diplomatic appointment because her predecessors have also been really mean to their employees. Moreover, nobody really needs "experience" to go diplomatting in the U.K. because the gig is pretty much just having high tea and eating cucumber sandwiches while fielding complaints about how the sky has been a wet cement color for the past three months:
As for "ludicrous" inexperience: the careers of her rivals for London, reportedly the two fellow bundlers, an investment banker called Marc Lasry [U.S. Ambassador to Sweden] and former businessman Matthew Barzun, both confirm that a congratulatory ambassadorship is a job for which conventional diplomatic training is neither expected nor necessary.
Bennett is employing a little rhetorical trick those fond of wearing lead gloves call "sarcasm," and she spackles it on pretty thick in the latter stages of her explanation of why appointing Wintour to the U.K. ambassador post would be pretty stupid (a star-crossed Vogue profile of Asma al-Asad springs to mind). However, does this really matter? The answer is of course it doesn't because ambassadoring in the U.K. is what those in the diplomat racket call a "sinecure." Even when the U.S. really needed an ambassador somewhere important during a critical stage of history, say, in Germany during the 1930s, the choice was a mild-mannered history professor named William Dodd who'd gone to school in Germany for a little while before working on a book he'd never finish about the history of the South (FDR thought Dodd did a fine job, but the State Department, on the other hand, did not).
Surely Wintour is more qualified than that, right? And relations between the U.S. and the U.K. are pretty a-ok. The big objection right now (especially if we all agree that experience doesn't matter when attending ceremonial quidditch matches in fashionable macintoshes, and saying "biscuit" instead of "cookie") to Wintour being ambassador is that Meryl Streep plays a mean fictional version of her in a movie.
Think of it this way — Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor who starred in such cerebral films as Commando, Predator, and Twins was elected by the fine citizens of California to steward the world's eighth largest economy. Twice. Arnold Schwarzenegger once uttered the line, "Don't disturb my friend, he's dead tired" after pretending to kill someone in Commando, which is a movie about a bodybuilder who takes off his shirt and singlehandedly defeats an entire Guatemalan guerilla army without once reloading his machine gun. Ronald Reagan (again, the actor) was president. Of America.
Anna Wintour was not actually in the movie about how awful a human she's supposed to be, but she has managed — pretty successfully if you believe the rumors — an entire editorial team, and writing/editing is like being a diplomat appointed by your brain to a post in your typing fingers. She also speaks English, and speaking English and carrying an umbrella at all times are the two main qualifications for the U.K. ambassador job.
Anna Wintour as US ambassador is a step too far [The Guardian]