Nothing like a plum ambassadorship

Barack Obama promised to bring change to Washington, but did you see whom he selected as Belizeambassador to Belize? His old college buddy Vinai Thummalapally!

Humor Column The folks in Belize had better give me a call. For only $9.99, I’ll help them learn how to say “Ambassador Thummalapally.”

Thummalapally, in case you’re wondering, has no experience as a diplomat, but he did pass Obama’s foreign service exam, which consisted of a single question: “How much money did you raise for me, bro?”

The correct answer for Thummalapally was “more than 100 grand — and I also told the media that you’re the best thing to happen to America since Slim-Fast.”

The Colorado business executive also donated $4,500 of his own money for his pal’s presidential campaign, while his wife, Barbara, gave $2,800. There were no strings attached, of course, just a note from Barbara that said: “Dear Barack, Vinai and I believe in you so much, we’re giving you all the money we had saved for our vacation in sunny Belize. I told Vinai that Belize can wait. Poor guy, he really had his heart set on going. He even read the Lonely Planet Travel Guide and bought a really nice beach umbrella.”

Well, perhaps Barbara didn’t send a note, but she and Vinai were probably aware that raising money for Obama’s campaign could result in an ambassadorship.

Vinai: “We’ve raised only $50,000. We need to raise more. I don’t want to be sent to Cote d’Ivoire.”

Barbara: “Yeah, me neither. That would be as bad as going to Ivory Coast.”

Vinai: “If we raise a little more, we could go to Belize, Jamaica or even Namibia.”

Barbara: “What’s so great about Namibia?”

Vinai: “I’m not sure, but that’s where Angelina Jolie goes to give birth. Did you know that she’s the UN Refugee Agency’s Goodwill Ambassador?”

Barbara: “She must not have raised much money for the agency. I’d rather be a Macy’s or Saks Fifth Avenue Ambassador.”

Obama followed the dubious practice of previous presidents -– Republicans and Democrats alike –- in rewarding his contributors and friends with plum ambassadorships. A plum ambassadorship, in case you didn’t know, is an ambassadorship to a country where plums are grown. Plum ambassadorships are considered more desirable than mango and banana ambassadorships. (Now you know why Thummalapally and others described their fundraising as “very fruitful.”)

John Roos, a California-based lawyer who raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, was appointed ambassador to Japan. Poor guy — if he had raised a little more, he could have been off to Paris. That job went to Charles Rivkin, president and CEO of an entertainment company. Obama selected him as an ambassador not just because he had raised almost as much money as a CEO earns, but also because he had produced the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba! and, as such, was familiar with foreign-looking creatures.

Louis Susman, a lawyer and investment banker who raised at least $400,000 for Obama’s campaign and inauguration, earned himself an ambassadorship to Britain. Talk about a plum post. He’ll get to have lunch with Prince Charles, tea with the Queen, and dinner with Susan Boyle.  Well, one out of three isn’t bad.

So what happens to all the career diplomats, the ones who have tons of foreign service experience, but didn’t raise a penny for the president? They get sent to countries in the developing world that don’t have the amenities of Tokyo, Paris or London, that don’t have the sunny beaches of Belize or Jamaica. But on the bright side, people in these countries can be quite welcoming. In a few remote islands, for example, the natives are constantly sending invitations to the U.S. Embassy, eager to have the ambassador for dinner.

Give Obama some credit: he may have smoked pot at one time, but he doesn’t want any of his friends to end up in one.


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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Great humour Melvin. Never can get enough of the humour. Keep them “hitting” the blog.

  2. You are absolutely HILARIOUS in every bit of a line on some posts. And this is definitely one
    LOL!! on ‘ ambassador for dinner’!!
    Keep more coming 🙂

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