Eric Garcetti Wins His Prize, But Dark Clouds Gather
[guest post by JVW]
Eric Garcetti, a foolish nabob, inartful liar, and sad nonentity of a mayor for Los Angeles lo these past nine years, finally made it through a vote which allows him to keep the flame of his political ambition lit, if only barely:
Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was finally confirmed by a split vote in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, March 15, to serve as the United States ambassador to India, 20 months after being nominated by President Joe Biden.
Garcetti, who was confirmed in a 52-42 roll call, was nominated in July 2021, but his nomination languished for months in the Senate as some speculated that he knew, or should have known, about allegations of assault and sexual harassment committed by a former top aide to the then-mayor.
Victory for Garcetti, 52, was far from a sure thing. With several Democratic defections arising on Wednesday morning, Garcetti’s fate rested with allying with Republicans in the deeply divided Senate. He secured seven GOP votes to advance the nomination to a final vote.
For the record, the Republican Senators who voted to confirm were Cassidy (LA), Collins (ME), Daines (MT), Graham (SC), Hagerty (TN), Marshall (KS), and Young (IN). Independent Senators King (ME), Sanders (VT), and Sienema (AZ) all voted in favor of the nomination. Senators who did not cast a vote were Barrasso (R-WY), Booker (D-NJ), Cruz (R-TX), Feinstein (D-CA), Fetterman (D-PA), and McConnell (R-KY). Three Democrats, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Maizie Hirono of Hawaii, and Mark Kelly of Arizona, voted against confirming Mr. Garcetti. We’ll come back to them in a moment.
As we have discussed before, there was one brief moment in 2017 — back when dispirited Democrats were wondering how they could have lost to Donald Trump and who would become the party’s standard-bearer — when it seemed plausible that Mayor Garcetti could be the heir to the Obama movement, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that at the time he had barely finished his first term as mayor. But a spate of controversies surrounding city hall, which didn’t directly involve the mayor but helped advance the perception of a city and county government which was ineffective and corrupt, helped to undermine his support. At the same time, a general lack of progress on any of the important issues facing Angelenos — homelessness, urban decay, transportation, an unfriendly business climate — left a lot of locals with a sense that this mayor was something of a dud.
But what really hurt Eric Garcetti and nearly cancelled his ticket to New Delhi was the revelation that one of his closest aides had repeatedly sexually harassed staff, journalists, even police security while serving in the administration, and that the mayor himself may have known about this behavior yet failed to act:
An investigation requested by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last year concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Jacobs “sexually harassed multiple individuals and made racist comments towards others.” It also found it “extremely unlikely” that Garcetti was unaware of the behavior, saying that “by all accounts, Mayor Garcetti is very involved in the day-to-day operation of his office.”
The White House called the report a partisan smear.
Nevertheless, intense lobbying on the part of Mayor Garcetti and his supporters managed to sway the seven Republican Senators to support the nomination. Credit, such that it is, should also be given to the Biden Administration who patiently waited out the full 20 months, even resubmitting the Garcetti nomination once it expired, rather than moving on to another candidate. The Administration lashed out at the confirmation delay, complaining that India was too important of an ally to have the ambassadorship vacant for two years, but perhaps they could have thought of that before nominating someone so controversial with the decision falling to an evenly-divided Senate. Most of the seven Republicans who ended up voting for the new ambassador cited the prolonged vacancy and India’s strategic importance in Asia as the reason for their approval.
Even though Eric Garcetti is “back in the game” and now has a political job available for at least the next couple of years (he is said to be interested in running to succeed Gavin Newsom in 2026), this vote exposed some problems that he might face in future attempts at executive office. Sen. Hirono, echoing the Grassley Report, attributed her “no” vote to “information that was given to me in confidence, but very credible.” Now in the age of Christine Blasey Ford we shouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into confidential allegations, but given that this is an intra-party skirmish, we can expect this information to leak at some point when Ambassador Garcetti once again moves back to electoral politics.
So rather than a lean and hungry “young” (in Washington these days, everyone under 80 is a kid) lion heading to India to wow the locals and burnish his resume for a future run at executive office, we’re seeing a badly wounded deer limping away to rest and heal his wounds and hope that he returns to a much more favorable climate. As I wrote more than three years ago, Eric Garcetti’s biggest handicap is going to be that he accomplished very little in nine years at the helm of Los Angeles, and he simply doesn’t have the charisma or reputation to run on personality alone.