Excerpted Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News January 23, 2013 Obama to replace ambassador with ‘clout’
U.S. President Barack Obama will be sending a new ambassador to Canada this year, a move that could have ramifications for Canada-U.S. relations.
On Tuesday, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa said it’s expected Ambassador David Jacobson’s term will not be extended. Traditionally, they said, two-term presidents send a new ambassador to Ottawa for the second term. They added that no decision has been made on Jacobson’s successor, or exactly when that new ambassador will be appointed.
The departure of Jacobson, who arrived in Canada in October 2009, could leave a significant hole.
He is a former Chicago lawyer who was a senior fundraiser for Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, and has continued to have clout with the president.
Jacobson has been a leading player in helping Canada and the U.S. smooth over some bilateral irritants. Perhaps most significantly, he was a crucial force behind advocating for the Canada-U.S. border deal that tightens security while also speeding access at the border. He has also developed a strong personal rapport and working relationship with Gary Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S.
Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who once worked at Canada’s Embassy in Washington, said in an interview Tuesday that the bilateral relationship benefited thanks to Jacobson.
Jacobson was unknown to most people when Obama won his first presidential election. He had been Obama’s deputy finance chairman during the campaign.
In the first few months of Obama’s presidency, he worked in the White House Personnel Office, helping the president fill dozens of diplomatic postings before his nomination as ambassador.
“Jacobson, because of the personal relationship, clearly had clout,” said Robertson. “You want an American ambassador who can pick up the phone and get through to the White House – to the president or the chief of staff. And Jacobson had those attributes.”
The major accomplishment during Jacobson’s term was the achievement of a “Beyond the Border” agreement signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama.
Under the deal, both governments are embarking on pilot projects to adopt a joint “perimeter security” approach to protect the border.
In addition to guarding against terrorism, the Canadian government hopes the agreement will ease cross-border traffic congestion so that the two countries can trade goods on time.
Robertson said he doesn’t think the deal would have been struck without Jacobson’s work behind the scenes.
“The prime minister was pushing it, and Jacobson intervened a couple of times with the White House.”…