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The USA finally did it announced its ambassador to India – Eric Garcetti, former Mayor of Los Angeles, got the job 2.5 years after his name was first announced for the position.
Garcetti, loyal to Joe Biden, was seen as one of the stars of the Democratic Party until about five years ago. However, the last nine years of his mayoralty were rocked by scandals, which cost him a job in Biden’s cabinet and nearly derailed his bid for the presidency.
Garcetti’s route to New Delhi was undecided last week, when the US Senate passed a motion to block it. A motion to close the mouth is accepted when the issue under discussion is supported by the majority, and it reduces the ongoing debate about the issue by minority members.
Who is Eric Garcetti?
Garcetti’s website says the 52-year-old grew up in the San Fernando Valley and earned a BA and MA from Columbia University. He studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and the London School of Economics and taught at Occidental College and USC. He was an officer in the US Navy for 12 years and is “an avid jazz pianist and photographer,” the website says. He has a daughter with his wife, Amy Elaine Wakeland.
When he was elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013 – a position he held until 2012 – he became the city’s youngest mayor in 100 years, and the first Jew to hold that seat. Before that, he served as President of the Los Angeles City Council from 2006 to 2012, and as a Council Member for the 13th District before that.
His tenure as mayor of Los Angeles was mixed, but had some high points, including securing the city as a 2028 Olympic venue.
While he was praised for getting a $15 minimum wage, improving Los Angeles’ transportation system and making it earthquake-resistant, and his general speeches during the Covid crisis that many citizens found reassuring, he was criticized for the city’s homeless problem. . During the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, he was criticized from the left and the right for his efforts to find a middle ground to “rescind the calls to the police”. Allegations of corruption in the City Council have cast another shadow on his record.
However, the biggest setback has been allegations of sexual misconduct against an aide, which Garcetti is accused of not doing anything about.
The Rick Jacobs scandal
In 2020, a lawsuit was filed against Rick Jacobs, Garcetti’s top aide, by police officer and Garcetti bodyguard Matthew Garza. Garza alleges that Jacobs touched her inappropriately and made “obscene sexual comments”. After this, Jacobs quit his job. Garcetti has repeatedly insisted that he knows nothing about the allegations of misconduct. However, his opponents say that he knew about these allegations and did not take action or was unaware of what was going on in his party.
The fall of shame
As previously reported by the Indian Express, Garcetti was the chairman of Biden’s election campaign and remains a close political friend of the President. He was expected to be part of Biden’s Cabinet, but the controversy surrounding Jacobs is said to have ruined his chances of that.
While his appointment as ambassador to India was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January last year, in March, US Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, stopped it, citing Jacobs’ allegations. Grassley’s report concluded that Garcetti “probably knew or should have known” that Jacobs had allegedly sexually harassed city employees and had made racist remarks.
If a hold is placed on a nominee by a member of parliament, it means that the nominee will not be approved immediately by unanimous consent, delaying the confirmation process. Other Republicans also opposed the nomination.
The White House called Grassley’s report a “hit job” for the party, but some Democrats were skeptical of Garcetti. While he cleared the committee on his first nomination, he was not brought to the Senate floor for a full vote.
According to a report from Axios last May, Democrats Richard Blumenthal, senior senator from Connecticut; Mark Kelly, junior senator from Arizona; Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior senator from New York, and Independent Krysten Sinema, the senior senator from Arizona, were unsure of the votes. Gillibrand has now said she will support the nomination, “expressing confidence in Garcetti’s review by the foreign relations panel”, CNN reported.
On March 13, Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former communications director, told CNN that, “He is not fit to be an ambassador or hold public office anywhere in this country or in this world”, over the Jacobs episode.