WASHINGTON---As the odds are improving that Barack Obama will win the White House two weeks from today, there is speculation over what role pal Oprah Winfrey will play in an Obama administration.
A blog in the Financial Times guessed--with nothing but vapor for back up-- that Winfrey would be tapped to be ambassador to England.
I disagree that's what Winfrey would do for a President Obama. Nevertheless, I'll indulge.
Winfrey no doubt would have some "role" in an Obama White House because she is an important international figure who has a close connection to Obama and wife Michelle. But at least in the first years, I would guess she would not be formal or full time anything. Why?
*Ambassadors or other high level appointments need Senate confirmation, which would be a cinch. But ambassadors have to file extensive financial disclosures and I can't image Winfrey---head of a privately held entertainment empire (Harpo Productions is headquartered in Chicago) willing to do that at this time.
*An ambassador can't operate in total control of the press. Winfrey runs a tight press ship right now. Winfrey recently tested Obama's rather situational claims of transparency regarding fund-raising for his presidential campaign when she would not allow a pool reporter to be present at a fund-raising event in Chicago where she spoke. Now the event was not built around her--and a pool reporter was present for other speakers--but team Obama bowed to Winfrey's demands and closed her remarks to the press.
*Winfrey would throw a lot of people out of work if she closed her show down a few months from now. Anyway, she's got contracts to produce the show for at least through 2010.
*So what job would be right for Winfrey? I could see her as a special international envoy. Short term appointments like this do not require financial disclosures. I could see her leading a domestic commission already in place (there are scores of them) that deal with health, education, etc. or some special task force created by a President Obama.
If and when she took an ambassadorship, I can't see England. An easy embassy would be a waste for Winfrey. I could see her at the United Nations. I could see her someplace in Africa. She has great interests in South Africa, running a school for girls there, albeit one that has been ensnarled in a bit of controversy.
I could also see her as a special Obama administration "lobbyist" Congress, sending her in on an ad hoc basis to help move a particular piece of legislation. She would be a powerful ambassador for Obama on Capitol Hill.