Do you conflate diplomacy with your own distaste for Trump?

The $80,000 which Ambassador Tim Groser spent on a party in Washington DC to mark Donald Trump’s inauguration is money well spent.

Why some people are up in arms over the $80,000 figure is that they conflate diplomacy with their own distaste for Trump.

Those options are not open in the real world where NZ’s diplomats have to forge links with Governments to get things done and to protect our economic and security interests.

And in Washington those vital connections are frequently made over a drink.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirms the Inauguration Gala was hosted because of the Washington embassy’s critical role in pursuing New Zealand’s interests with the United States:

“The event was considered as a constituency building activity to position New Zealand’s interests effectively with the new US Administration and Congress.”

As indeed was blatantly obvious to anyone present at the NZ Embassy in Observatory Circle on the evening of January 17.

Groser in his opening remarks talked about Donald Trump’s achievements and the “stunning victory” he secured against tough competition starting with the contest between 17 contestants for the Republican primaries.

But Groser stressed the event was a celebration of the “democratic process” itself.

It may all be a waste if the Trump administration insists that the path to the White House runs through Israel, eh Murray? ?But at least there are still some part of our government that are trying to maintain a working relationship. ?

Here’s the math.

One day out from the event the embassy had received 395 acceptances for the “Inauguration Gala” .

That works out at roughly $200 a head.

Although there would have been some drop off on the night because some of the major guests also came with their own retinues of minders and the like.

Not bad at all for a Gala which also showcased top New Zealand wines like Cloudy Bay Sauvignon and prime export quality NZ food and great entertainment.

And of course cocktails, which are the liquor of choice for many on Capitol Hill where a great deal of business gets done in the “cocktail” hour.

But the important factor was the contacts that were forged that evening.

It’s become commonplace for NZ media to put the boot into Groser since a Washingtonian gossip column piece which misquoted him.

The ambassador can be flippant.

But the Washingtonian was wrong when it said he “professed his own thrill” about the end of “PC” culture.

What he did say was: “One thing I do love about the Trump people is I don’t have to be so goddamn PC any longer … but there are limits and I have to respect those limits.”

In effect what Groser was doing was giving the guests an invitation to let their hair down and enjoy themselves.

He made a connection. They enjoyed themselves. The business comes later.

And more importantly, these are new relationships. ?The Trump people are by and large new to the job, so all the hard work that’s gone into greasing palms and calming feathers in the establishment is somewhat irrelevant while the new team take their place.


– Fran O’Sullivan, NZ Herald