Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump's new Ambassador to Austria?

Trump's has unofficially asked a concert pianist named Patrick Park to be the new US Ambassador to Austria.

Shannon Donnelly reports for the Palm Beach Daily News (Patrick Park may get to realize dream as Austrian ambassador 02/12/2017):

Patrick Park is an avid fan of “The Sound of Music.” You might say he’s obsessed with it. “Really, I’ve seen it like 75 times,” the concert pianist/industrialist said.

“I know every single word and song by heart. I’ve always wanted to live in the Von Trapp house.”

Well, if he can’t live there, at least he’ll be close enough to visit.

Park has received unofficial word from President Donald Trump — well, as unofficial as a handwritten note saying “on to your next chapter, Ambassador!” can be — that he is the president’s choice to be U.S. ambassador to Austria. [my emphasis]

To most Americans, "I’ve always wanted to live in the Von Trapp house," sounds cute, maybe a little silly.

But Ambassadors are supposed to pay attention to symbolism. So I wonder if he knows this about the house where he says he's always wanted to live: "In real life, the von Trapps' property was confiscated by the Nazis and SS chief Heinrich Himmler moved in. SS barracks were built in the garden and the property was secured with barbed wire and armed guards." (Tom Peterkin, Maria von Trapp returns to home that inspired The Sound of Music Telegraph 06/25/2008)

Himmler's old office there is now an interfaith chapel. Last I heard, it's not for rent as office space. You'd think a concert pianist wouldn't be so tone-deaf.

To be clear, the point making a point here about a minor instance of the klutziness of the Trump Family Business Administration. US Ambassadorships are notoriously doled out to major campaign contributors, perfectly legal as long as there is no explicit quid pro quo. This is different from the more typical international practice of having Ambassadors be people with sound experience in foreign affairs or government, often veterans of the home country's diplomatic service.

A biographical sketch of Park in Palm Beach Galas, Patrick Park: Hitting the Charitable High Notes, undated but apparently from early 2012 says:

Professionally, he serves his family’s company, the Park Corporation, in marketing. The company is involved with numerous manufacturing operations as well as real estate. Park was instrumental in converting a 2.2-million-square-foot manufacturing plant, which once churned out tanks for use in World War II and the Korean War, into a world-class exhibition center in Cleveland, Ohio. Known as the International Exposition Center, it’s adjacent to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Bloomberg's Company Overview of Park Corporation (02/20/2017) describes the company this way:

Park Corporation is a multi-divisional company specializing in corporate divestitures of orphan business units, special situations, recapitalizations, mature, reorganization, acquisitions out of bankruptcy, 363 transactions, and bank debt purchases. It seeks to invest in middle market companies in the industrial sector. Additionally, the firm manufactures machinery and components for the steel and energy related industries. It also sells industrial equipment for the metalworking and mining industries. The firm produces and sells integrated steel products; and offers oil refining and power generation services, as well as convention and trade show services. It engages in the development of industrial and commercial real estate properties; and private equity and fixed income investment. Park Corporation was founded in 1946 and is based in Cleveland, Ohio.
Also, the Van Trapp villa is a lovely place, where people can rent rooms. The atmosphere is more like that of a bread-and-breakfast or an Austrian Gasthaus than a hotel. It's not expensive to stay, either. It's out in a residential neighborhood in Salzburg with a bus stop a short walk away. They certainly don't market it as the place where Heinrich Himmler lived! And the interfaith chapel is a nice statement recognizing that life and history has its dark sides that we shouldn't allow to dominate.

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