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Advocate

Norman Eisen, an old friend of Obama’s from Harvard Law School, is bolstering the forces of liberalism as ambassador to the Czech Republic

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Eisen and Obama, from separate pages of the 1991 Harvard Law School yearbook. (Courtesy of the author)

The Czech Republic is one of the most politically corrupt countries in Europe, and it has proven to be a challenging laboratory for Eisen’s knowledge. (Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he helped found Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal answer to right-wing legal watchdog groups like Judicial Watch, which spent the 1990s hounding the Clinton Administration with lawsuits.) “Doing [private] business in the Czech Republic is very similar to doing business in the U.S.,” says Weston Stacy, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic. “But then if you’re talking about public procurement, doing business with the state is still a very non-transparent process.”

Early in his term, Eisen hosted a workshop on whistleblowing, inviting members of non-governmental organizations as well as representatives from the state, and he has followed that up with a series of seminars, bringing together anti-corruption experts from around the world to meet with Czech politicians and anti-corruption activists. “The Czechs have made confronting corruption a priority,” Eisen says. In November, Eisen hosted the World Forum on Governance, co-chaired by the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution, which brought together about 100 representatives from around the world in the fields of finance, transparency, and anti-corruption to discuss best practices.

Transparency has proven crucial with one public tender in particular: the completion of the Temelín Nuclear Power Plant Station, a contract worth some $30 billion. The Czech government is entertaining bids from the United States (Westinghouse), France (Areva), and Russia (a state-owned conglomerate called Atomstroyexport), and the competition is widely viewed as a battle between those who want to keep the country oriented toward the West and those, like President Klaus, who are looking east toward Moscow. While French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian Prime Minister Dmtiri Medvedev have aggressively lobbied Prague, the job of representing Westinghouse has been left to Eisen. “Before, what you saw was a lot of lobbying by the Russians and some degree of lobbying by the French but almost a complete absence of lobbying by Westinghouse or the U.S. government on behalf of Westinghouse,” Stacey told me. “Since Ambassador Eisen’s arrival, the U.S. part of the bid has been substantially improved.”

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The first member of his immediate family to attend high school, never mind university, Eisen was raised in southern California. After graduating from Brown, he worked for the regional office of the ADL before heading east for law school at Harvard. His father, who left Poland in 1929 and who passed away when Eisen was a teenager, ran a hamburger stand in Los Angeles and struggled to make a living. It was a very typical first-generation immigrant story; he has often said that his parents worked like the “Israelites in Egypt.”

Eisen shares that work ethic. Yes, he attends galas and cocktail parties, enjoying the role of an American emissary in an enchanting European capital, but he also keeps a frenetic schedule of public appearances, meetings with government officials, and has started his own blog on the embassy’s website and for leading Czech newspaper DNES. (He says the president reads it.) Last year, he visited the Czech contingent of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, for instance, and he’s taken a keen interest combating extremism, as demonstrated by his involvement in the Bátora affair. David Ondracka, the head of Transparency International’s office in Prague, says that Eisen is “the most visible figure among the diplomatic corps.”

Up until last month, however, it was unclear if Eisen would return to the job. In the fall of 2010, soon after Obama announced his choice of Eisen to be ambassador, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa placed a “hold” on the nomination. Grassley’s opposition stemmed not from any lack of qualification on Eisen’s part or his policy views, but rather his role, when serving as White House ethics watchdog, in the firing of Gerald Walpin, for his role overseeing volunteer programs like AmeriCorps. Grassley alleged that the White House and, by extension, Eisen, attempted to obscure their political motivations for firing Walpin, who had initiated an investigation of Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson, an Obama ally, over accusations that he misused federal funds while heading a California charter school.

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Beautiful piece!

Because of Jewish Liberalism we have caused in the USA an Uprise in Anti-Semitism from the Left and from the Right “Religites”. The Right is now claiming this country to be a Christian Country and in fact on Tea Party. Org Blogtalk radio on Jan 20, 2012, they had N.H. State Representative Harry Accornero from District 4, Laconia who agreed with them this is a Christian Country. There is no Law in the Constitution that states this! What they are going by are letters that were written by the founding fathers and not considering that a Jew Haym Solomon financed the war of 1776 and also was never paid back because Robert Morris an Anti Semite lost the note when it was presented to him.
I suggest anyone who comes out with “This is a Christian Country and not a country where Church and State should be separated” not be voted in.
This continued hate from the Right as well as from the Left is springing up because they need ah scapegoat, like in Nazi Germany, and the word Neo Con, Wall Street and Zionist as well as Billionaire and Millionaire are code words for Jew. Christian Country is an unwelcomed phase.
We must band together and stop looking at Obama as a friend to the Jews because he is against Israel. And the Right candidates, the ones who call themselves Christians, are against Jews and are for taking back not only America but to make Israel Christian, the 11th Crusade. We need to be very careful who we put into office and who we support. Without Israel we will end up in a 2nd Holocaust.
I am a Jew running against Barack Hussein Obama. I am for Israel and I understand what is coming and it’s not going to be pretty.
I believe we need a Jewish Movement that would benefit for ourselves and not let the Professional Politicians who are blind to the radical Islamic Jihad that is coming from both direction to kill Jews and it will happen since this President in the White House and this Congress in both Houses have stripped away our rights and Constitution

Jean Terry says:

It seems to me our ambassador should keep his mouth shut about this and not sign petitions in the country he is in. He should keep out of their internal affairs unless they are Nazi’s.

MH8169 says:

I find it facinating that an observant Jew would advocate for BHO. As a traditionalist Jew (not observant) and someone who is politically conservative,the Ambassador presents to me as an enigma. I am curious about his position on Israel. Does he agree with BHO’s penchant that stigmatizes and boxes Israel?

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Advocate

Norman Eisen, an old friend of Obama’s from Harvard Law School, is bolstering the forces of liberalism as ambassador to the Czech Republic