President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as ambassador to India, the White House said Friday, selecting a high-profile ally to serve in one of the most difficult diplomatic posts.
Garcetti, if confirmed, would be dispatched to India as it has been overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
The White House also announced Friday that Biden is nominating Democratic fundraiser Denise Bauer to serve as ambassador to France and Monaco, career foreign service officer Peter Haas to serve as ambassador to Bangladesh and former Obama-era national security aide Bernadette Meehan to serve as ambassador to Chile.
Garcetti, who considered a 2020 White House bid and later became part of Biden’s inner circle, emerged as a widely discussed possibility to join Biden’s Cabinet last year. But he took himself out of the running, saying the raging coronavirus crisis made it impossible for him to step away.
The two-term mayor would leave LA with an uneven record. He has been credited with continuing a transit buildup in a city choked with traffic, establishing tougher earthquake safety standards for thousands of buildings and steering the city though the deadly pandemic as it became a hot spot for infections. Cases have fallen steeply in the city and some restrictions have been rolled back, consistent with the trajectory in the state.
But Garcetti was overmatched by a crisis of homelessness that became a national embarrassment despite the massive jump in government spending to fight it. Many streets and sidewalks remain cratered and crumbling, despite his early pledge to make fixing them a cornerstone of his administration.
A lawsuit alleges that a former top staffer sexually harassed one of the mayor’s police bodyguards while Garcetti ignored it or laughed it off. The mayor denies the claims. One of his former deputy mayors was also indicted on corruption charges in an ongoing federal investigation at City Hall. And as is the case in many large cities, the crime rate in LA is spiking.
In picking Garcetti, Biden is rewarding a loyalist who was one of his national campaign co-chairs, who served on the committee that vetted his pool of vice presidential contenders and who served as one of several co-chairs for Biden’s inaugural committee.
Garcetti said in a statement that the nomination presents him with another opportunity at public service in a career that also includes 12 years in the Los Angeles City Council, several years as a Naval Reserve officer and time as an assistant professor of diplomacy and world affairs.
“Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call,” Garcetti said. "And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”
Bauer, who served as ambassador to Belgium, is a prominent Democratic fundraiser. She served as executive director of Women for Biden during his last run for the White House. She served in a similar role in President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.
Haas, whose career at the State Department includes stints across five geographical bureaus and as consul general in Mumbai, currently serves as acting assistant secretary of state and as principal deputy assistant secretary for economic and business affairs.
Meehan, who is the executive vice president of global programs for the Obama Foundation, spent over a decade as a foreign service officer and was a National Security Council spokesperson during the Obama administration.
Biden has stepped up ambassadorial nominations in recent weeks.
Among his other picks are former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as ambassador to Mexico, former Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides as ambassador to Israel, and retired airline pilot Chesley ”Sully” Sullenberger, most famous for negotiating the emergency landing of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River in 2009 with no fatalities, to serve as U.S. representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Biden is also expected to nominate former longtime State Department official Nicholas Burns to serve as his ambassador to China and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan, according to a person familiar with the decisions who was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Associated Press writers Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.