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Patronage pick ambassador quits; derided as 'disaster,' 'abysmal'

From NBC’s Domenico Montanaro
A year-and-a-half ago, this reporter wrote about the potential pitfalls of patronage appointments for ambassadorships -- big-money fundraisers who get plum posts – and President Obama’s continuing of the tradition.  

Well, one of those appointments has apparently come back to haunt the administration.  

Cynthia Stroum, a Seattle-based Obama fundraiser, who bundled in the top range of $500,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, quit her post Monday. Yesterday, an internal State Department report was released and, based upon that, the AP described her tenure as a “disaster” and “abysmal.”

“The report says her tenure of about one year was fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor,” AP writes. It adds, “[T]he report paints a picture of a corrosive atmosphere at the small embassy, with the ambassador running roughshod over staff, threatening to read their e-mails, largely concerned about job-related perks and involved in improper purchases. The situation was so bad that the inspector general recommended that the State Department dispatch medical personnel to Luxembourg to test the stress levels of embassy employees.”

More: "The bulk of the mission's internal problems are linked to her leadership deficiencies, the most damaging of which is an abusive management style," the report said. "She has followed a pattern of public criticism of colleagues, including (deputies), who have not performed to her satisfaction."

And it alleges that the State Department ignored the problems: “It is unfortunate that an impression is being created among officers and local employees at this mission that this kind of behavior may be routinely tolerated by Department of State leadership, particularly for non-career ambassadors."

And, get this: The report also said that “at least four staffers quit or sought transfers to Iraq and Afghanistan during her tenure, unusual steps for diplomats assigned to a modern, Western European capital.”

You know there are big problems when your employees request transfers to war zones -- from Luxembourg.

Luckily for the White House, it’s Luxembourg.

But as Barbara Bodine, a lecturer at Princeton’s Wilson School and former ambassador to Yemen, said in the 2009 story: “The complexity of problems is not a job for amateurs — even a talented amateur.”