Press play to take heed to this text
All U.S. ambassadors serve on the pleasure of the president. However Mark Gitenstein, Joe Biden’s option to be U.S. envoy to the EU, is a beneficiary of the president’s “private privilege.”
Gitenstein, 74, is an in depth pal of the president and longtime aide, who was actually at Biden’s shoulder for a lot of 1987 — arguably probably the most pivotal yr in Biden’s lifelong profession in public service. That yr, the then-senator from Delaware made his first failed run for president and, as Judiciary Committee chairman, led a profitable longshot bid to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court docket.
On the time, Gitenstein was chief counsel to the Judiciary Committee, and he will be seen in a video of Bork’s high-drama affirmation hearings, perched behind Biden’s proper shoulder, as strategically positioned — and almost as close-at-hand — because the senator’s gold-plated picket gavel propped on the desk in entrance of him.
Gitenstein was succeeded within the chief counsel job in 1989 by Ron Klain, now the White Home chief of workers, and the ranks of future Biden Senate staffers would finally embrace the likes of Antony Blinken, now secretary of state. But it surely was 1987 and the defeat of the Bork nomination that outlined Biden’s future and, consequently, means the EU will quickly get an envoy who has not solely the president’s ear but in addition a chunk of his coronary heart.
Biden described their friendship throughout a go to to Bucharest, as Barack Obama’s vp, in 2009 when Gitenstein was U.S. ambassador to Romania. “We have now an envoy right here — America in my opinion has despatched their finest,” he stated, standing beside Romania’s then-President Traian Băsescu.
“There’s an expression while you arise on the ground of the Senate, if you will speak about one thing personally, Mr. President, we are saying please excuse the purpose of private privilege,” Biden stated. “And full disclosure, our ambassador is my finest private pal. We have now raised one another’s youngsters. We have now — our wives are shut mates. My grandchildren are — contemplate the Gitensteins to be nearly kinfolk.”
At a time when Biden has put an enormous premium on restoring transatlantic relations, it is becoming that he would ship Brussels an envoy he considers a relation of his personal. Much more becoming, based on officers and diplomats who know him, is Gitenstein’s monitor report as a defender of rule of regulation and an anti-corruption crusader at a time when the EU is locked in a fierce debate amongst its personal member international locations about such fundamental ideas as how one can outline an impartial judiciary.
From Beltway to Bucharest
Actually, Gitenstein first ended up within the ambassadorial ranks after failing to clinch a much bigger Beltway job. Having helped to steer Biden’s vice presidential transition staff, Gitenstein was in line for a senior Justice Division place, as head of the Workplace of Authorized Coverage, solely to be thwarted by criticism from some advocacy teams about his many years as a personal lawyer and lobbyist representing massive company pursuits.
As an alternative, Obama nominated Gitenstein as ambassador to Romania, the place he served from 2009 to 2012. He refers to himself as a “proud” Romanian-American, citing his Romanian-Jewish great-grandfather who was born in Botoșani, close to the present borders of Moldova and Ukraine, within the late Nineties and emigrated to the U.S. as a baby.
When Gitenstein arrived in Bucharest in 2009, Romania had been a member of the EU for simply over 30 months and officers who knew him then stated he helped encourage the nation’s integration with Western European norms.
“He was very a lot concerned on this struggle towards corruption, rule of regulation, transparency,” stated a Romanian diplomat who attended conferences with him on the time.
“He was extremely popular in Romania, well-connected, in numerous spheres — justice, however not solely justice, economic system as effectively.”
Dacian Cioloș, a former Romanian prime minister who’s now the top of the liberal Renew Europe group within the European Parliament, stated that Gitenstein had confirmed to be a powerful supporter of Romania at a vital juncture within the nation’s historical past, and that his emphasis on his Romanian ancestry proved a success with the general public.
“He performed these Romanian roots as a way to achieve the arrogance of the folks,” Cioloș stated in an interview, including that the invention of a loss of life certificates of a Gitenstein relative had generated information protection.
Cioloș, who was Romania’s European commissioner when Gitenstein was posted in Bucharest, recalled a powerful enchancment in relations between Romania and the U.S., which included the negotiation and signing of the U.S.-Romanian Ballistic Missile Protection Settlement.
“As an envoy, he contributed loads to the rapprochement between Romania and the USA,” Cioloș stated, citing points together with protection and financial relations. He added: “In a interval when democratic and anti-corruption establishments have been examined to the restrict, he was a really sturdy defender of the rule of regulation.”
Cioloș stated he anticipated Gitenstein to thrive on an EU-wide platform, even when Brussels and Washington typically disagree.
“He is aware of very effectively the scenario within the European Union, and the historical past and evolution of relations between the EU and U.S.,” Cioloș stated. “I do know it is not going to be simple on digital points, additionally on local weather points. I feel general we have now some widespread targets with the U.S. however not each time will the options be in the identical perspective.”
However he stated, “even after we can disagree figuring out the U.S. has an envoy right here, who is aware of very effectively the scenario within the European Union and the element — this can be a good factor as a way to discover widespread floor.”
As ambassador, Gitenstein helped encourage growth of the Bucharest Inventory Alternate, and he was concerned in a Europe-wide effort to advertise democracy and rule of regulation, based on Norm Eisen, who was U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014, and is now a senior fellow on the Brookings Establishment in addition to co-chair of the bipartisan Transatlantic Democracy Working Group on the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.
“One among his signature initiatives after we served collectively — and it actually was an EU-wide initiative that all the American ambassadors participated in and Mark helped lead — was combating corruption and selling democracy and the 2 have been intertwined,” Eisen stated. “Invariably when you have got an adversary of democracy, like Vladimir Putin, invariably you see corruption within the regime.”
Eisen, who labored on Obama’s presidential marketing campaign and as a particular counsel within the White Home earlier than being nominated as an envoy, stated that Gitenstein would profit within the Brussels put up each from his prior expertise as a diplomat and his lengthy relationship with Biden.
“There isn’t a stronger, extra certified nominee than Mark. I noticed that firsthand after we served as ambassadors collectively within the area,” Eisen stated.
“As one myself who benefitted from having an in depth longstanding relationship with the president who appointed me, I understand how necessary these ties are and Mark has them to an unparalleled diploma. His lengthy tenure with President Biden and his closeness to the president issues to how he’s perceived by the Europeans, however in addition they matter to getting the job executed.”
The U.S. has been and not using a absolutely confirmed ambassador to the EU since February 2020, when then-President Donald Trump fired his personal ambassador, Gordon Sondland, who received caught up within the Ukraine impeachment scandal and testified towards his boss in Congress. He was changed as performing ambassador by Ronald Gidwitz, who was Trump’s ambassador to Belgium and resigned upon Biden’s inauguration in January.
Gitenstein remains to be awaiting Senate affirmation and whereas his historical past as a staffer on Capitol Hill will little question accrue to his profit, he additionally dangers getting ensnared in some broader complaints or criticisms that Republican lawmakers have with Biden’s insurance policies towards Europe, particularly the president’s resolution to not levy sanctions on German corporations over Russia’s Nord Stream 2 fuel pipeline and as a substitute attain an lodging with Germany.
Heather Conley, who served as a State Division official underneath President George W. Bush, stated Gitenstein would seemingly face some scrutiny by Republicans because of Biden’s comparatively gradual method to coping with some points, like commerce, on which the U.S. and the EU have substantive disagreements.
“I feel the Europeans have been somewhat shocked on the Biden administration’s lack of commerce coverage,” stated Conley who’s now senior vp for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic, in addition to director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program on the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research in Washington.
Whereas there’s a marked totally different in tone in comparison with Trump’s belligerence, Conley famous that on substance to this point, the Biden staff had modified little. “What’s the distinction between Overseas Coverage for the Center Class, and Making American Nice Once more?” she requested, citing buzz phrases of the 2 presidents.
Conley, who has recognized Gitenstein professionally for years, stated he had succeeded in Romania partially by not overreaching within the struggle towards corruption. “He was very targeted, he understood the complexity of that downside in Romania,” she stated. “Not like loads of different American ambassadors, typically you get so caught up within the struggle, the struggle turns into extra necessary to you than the host nation. He pushed, however he understood it was their struggle.”
For Gitenstein, the EU ambassador put up is a belated profit from the struggle that outlined his profession and Biden’s in 1987. Gitenstein would find yourself leaving authorities and dealing for many years as a lawyer and lobbyist on the international regulation agency of Mayer Brown. And it might take Biden one other 33 years to comprehend his dream of being elected president.
After final yr’s election victory, Gitenstein as soon as once more jumped into motion, becoming a member of Biden’s closest confidante Ted Kaufman in main the presidential transition.
Gitenstein’s personal 1992 ebook concerning the Bork nomination describes how Biden as a senator felt he was combating for a approach of deciphering the U.S. Structure that might serve all U.S. residents within the fashionable period, reasonably than the strict slender method favored by Reagan’s arch-conservative nominee.
However the ebook’s very first line celebrates not victory however friendship. “I wish to thank my pal Senator Joseph Biden,” he wrote, “who had the arrogance in me to make me Chief Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee in order that I may take part within the occasions described on this ebook.”
Eisen, the previous ambassador to the Czech Republic, stated Gitenstein’s willingness to work with Republicans, developed on Capitol Hill, would show an asset in pursuing U.S. pursuits within the EU, which he famous have been now intertwined with all U.S. pursuits globally, together with in relation to China.
“There are not any American priorities that aren’t transatlantic priorities,” Eisen stated. “Mark comes out of the Biden faculty of bipartisanship. You realize it is deeply rooted within the president’s profession and Mark has been part of that prolonged Biden household, an in depth a part of it for many years.”
Need extra evaluation from POLITICO? POLITICO Professional is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From monetary providers to commerce, know-how, cybersecurity and extra, Professional delivers actual time intelligence, deep perception and breaking scoops you could preserve one step forward. E-mail [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.