Obama-Appointed Ambassador Talks Trump Transition, Says "Hollywood's Self-Criticism is Overdone" (Guest Column)

Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg
Noah Bryson Mamet

Ex-super bundler Noah Mamet, who was U.S. ambassador to Argentina, explains what the transition was like after the new president demanded that all his predecessor's appointees resign.

On Jan. 20, former President Obama's ambassadors, including some of Hollywood's biggest political fundraisers — such as Colleen Bell (Hungary), a former producer on The Bold and the Beautiful, and former HBO exec James Costos (Spain) — reverted to civilian status after President Trump demanded that all Obama appointees resign. Ex-super bundler Noah Mamet, who was U.S. ambassador to Argentina, explains what the transition was like.

There was some misunderstanding in the press about President Trump ordering all Obama-appointed ambassadors to leave by Jan. 20. Every incoming administration — especially if it's a new party controlling the White House — wants to put its own people in place, and considering the way Trump campaigned, that came as no surprise. What was unprecedented was the "no exception" rule, which broke from past policies allowing ambassadors to make a case for temporarily staying on. That was a big difference. This was not the case for me, but for people who had kids in school — some had seniors in high school — they didn't want to pull them out before the end of the year. That was extremely difficult for them.

We had so many great projects going on, the president of Argentina offered to speak to Trump on my behalf. I declined because I thought it was more elegant to go out with Obama. And without knowing what the new administration's policies would be, I didn't want to be put in the position of having to defend them. A lot of ambassadors felt that way. It's a tenuous moment because people don't know what our strategic foreign policy is going to be or what the future holds.

I'll likely go back to the private sector (after a long vacation), focusing on international business, technology or renewable energy. But I always will have one foot in the political world. What we saw [on inauguration weekend] was a new, important mobilization of people. We have to remember that Hillary Clinton lost three key Midwestern states by a combined total of 60,000 votes. That is fewer people than fit in one stadium. Hollywood's self-criticism is overdone. Sure, we can improve and strive to be more effective, but I commend those who have been active for many years. This was a close election, and we need to recommit to a better result in two years.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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