Navigate to News section

New Ambassador To Return to Old Country

Eisen, son of Czech Jew, is appointed

Allison Hoffman
December 30, 2010
Norman Eisen.(National Journal)
Norman Eisen.(National Journal)

Yesterday, the White House announced a flurry of end-of-year recess appointments for nominees whose confirmations had been held up by the Senate—they will not require confirmation but their terms will expire after Congress’s next session, probably in December 2011. Most controversially, President Obama named Robert Ford to be the United States’s first ambassador to Syria since 2005, when the last one was recalled following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Another recess-appointed diplomat was Norman Eisen, the administration’s ethics and government reform czar (nickname: Dr. No). He was named ambassador to the Czech Republic.

This particular appointment represents a bit of poetic justice: As Eisen explained during his confirmation hearings last summer, his mother, Frieda, was born in Czechoslovakia, but deported to Auschwitz. She survived, and eventually found her way stateside, along with Eisen’s Polish-born father, who died when Eisen was 14. “Neither had a formal education, but our home in Los Angeles was rich in conversation, culture, and memory,” Eisen, now 50, testified. He became the first in his family to graduate from high school, and went on to Brown; after a stint working for the Anti-Defamation League in L.A., he attended Harvard Law, where he became friendly with a classmate who went on to run both the law review and, later, the United States.

Allison Hoffman is the executive editor of CNN Politics.