- Among other names for the high-profile post is former Congressman Joe Crowley, who was unexpectedly defeated in 2018 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star.
As India is grappling with a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of new cases crossing 300,000 daily, and a steady rise in the number of fatalities, President Joe Biden is mulling over a list candidates to appoint as U.S. ambassador to the world’s most populous democracy. One of the names floating is that of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, an early supporter of President Joe Biden, who served as a co-chair of his campaign committee. The Hindustan Times reported that among other names for the high-profile post is former Congressman Joe Crowley, who was unexpectedly defeated in 2018 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star.
The position of U.S. ambassador to India is lying vacant since Biden assumed office on Jan. 20. However, on May 3, Biden appointed Daniel B.Smith as the U.S. Charge d’Affaires to India. Ken Juster was the last U.S. ambassador to the country.
Axios says Biden’s pick for U.S. ambassador to India is significant given that the administration has signaled India will play a key role in helping to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region. In March, the president held his first virtual leader’s summit with members of the so-called Quad, including Japan, India, Australia and the United States, “to underscore his commitment to the region’s democracies.”
While lists of potential ambassadors were first presented to Biden in March, Axios notes that many final decisions have not been made. The president is expected to make a decision later this month.
Axios reported on March 19 that Biden will likely draw on “so-called political ambassadors — including allies and financial backers — for roughly 30 percent of the openings.” Some of the names the report mentioned included prominent Republicans like Cindy McCain and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), “to highlight the importance of bipartisanship in U.S. foreign policy.” The New York Times reported on March 16 that “[California Democrat] Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, is seeking an overseas posting, which could pave the way for her to leave the Senate.”
Further speculating on Garcetti’s possible appointment, the Axios report notes that “the potential exit of the Democratic executive for the nation’s second-largest city would come as Los Angeles faces record homelessness and a court order to find shelter for a massive Skid Row population by the end of September. It could further destabilize California politics amid a recall attempt against Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat.”
Garcetti won reelection in March of 2017 for a five-and-a-half year term. He is term-limited, and the election for his successor is scheduled for fall 2022. However, as per a Los Angeles Times report, “Garcetti hasn’t publicly ruled out leaving before his second term ends in December 2022.”
Garcetti mulled running for president himself. He passed, and then in December announced that he had turned down an unspecified job with the Biden administration. “As the administration reached out to me about serving, I let them know early this week that my city needs me now, and then I want to be here and that I need to be here,” he said during a news conference at the time.
Garcetti’s possible nomination to a Biden administration post last year sparked daily protests outside his home by members of Black Lives Matter and others. News reports also indicated at the time that another reason Grcetti’s Cabinet prospects faded was because of a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his former aides, Rick Jacobs, brought by a longtime bodyguard, Matthew Garza. The L.A. Times reports that the allegations received more attention after journalist Yashar Ali reported last year about his own experience of being repeatedly forcibly kissed by Jacobs when he was working in California politics. Alialso reported that Garcetti was aware of other potential misconduct by Jacobs.