It took more than two years but at Villa Taverna the wait is over. The last US ambassador to Italy, Lewis Eisenberg, left his post on January 4, 2021 and hasn’t been replaced since then, but now President Joe Biden has finally indicated a name to the Senate for the most foreign diplomatic post. important in Italy and is an old acquaintance of his. Jack Alan Markell governed the state where he grew up and which he represented in the Senate for 36 years, Delaware, for two terms, and politically he was close to his late son Beau who, had he not died in 2015, could have succeeded him as governor .
Once the hypothesis of Nancy Pelosi or some name close to the former speaker of the House has faded – if the Senate were to confirm her appointment – it could be the current US ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) who will enjoy of the splendid 15th century Roman villa. But Markell’s resume portends much more than a luxury stay in the capital.
A longtime politician
His biography binds him to Biden. Born in 1960 in Newark, Delaware, the former governor graduated from Newark High School, where he met his wife Carla, with whom he has two twenty-year-old children Molly and Michael. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, before earning a master of business administration from the University of Chicago.
Given his economic training, it is not surprising that in 1998 his political adventure began with his election as “Treasurer” of Delaware, i.e. responsible for providing banking, accounting and investment services to the state government, an office to which he was re-elected also in 2002 and 2006, the last time obtaining 70% of the vote.
His mandate had been particularly appreciated, also for the numerous efforts aimed at the financial literacy of the residents. In a country where social security, health care and education are not guaranteed to all by the state, Markell has set up the Delaware Money School, offering free lessons to teach, for example, how to save for children to study at university or plan their own retirement .
Themes that have always been dear to Biden and which he did not forget during his two terms as governor of Delaware, a position to which he was elected for the first time in 2008 (with 67.5% of the vote) and reconfirmed in 2012 (with 69.3%). Indeed, in this period, until the end of his second mandate in 2017, he approved a pension reform for civil servants, then increased services for people with disabilities, invested in school safety, supported an environmental remediation plan for courses state water, expanded controls on arms sales, supported same-sex marriage and the rights of transgender people and increased transparency in election campaign finance, even defending Obama’s call to welcome Syrian refugees in the US.
However, these latest statements have remained a dead letter since Delaware has not hosted many more refugees than other states. To tell the truth, even the reform of the pensions of civil servants – who are forced to pay higher contributions – has been criticized because it is inspired more by the principle of saving state spending than by expanding workers’ rights. Not to mention the new laws on electoral funding, given that Markell’s campaign ended up at the center of a scandal over some irregularities in donations which ended up being time-barred and which the then governor resolved by donating to charity an amount equal to the amount of suspicious contributions.
In short, an expert politician, capable of overcoming adversity and also appreciated at a national level. In fact, Markell presided over the National Governors Association, the bipartisan organization that brings together the governors of States, Territories and Commonwealths of the United States; the Democratic Governors Association, which supports Democratic candidates for top state office; and the Council of State Governments, a regional forum that promotes dialogue between various governments. But he also proved to be a friend of the Biden family. At the end of his second term – unable to stand again for legal reasons – Markell would have supported the candidacy of the current president’s son, Beau Biden, elected Attorney General of Delaware in 2006 and died of a brain tumor in 2015. magistrate, who in 2010 declined to run for his father’s Senate seat to prosecute a child abuse defendant, the then-governor titled a state childcare bill that increased screening and security in childcare facilities children, inviting widow Hallie Biden and sister Ashley to the signing ceremony.
Not surprisingly, his political career was relaunched by the arrival of the current president at the White House, for which in August 2021 he coordinated the Allies Welcome operation, in charge of managing and controlling the flow of refugees from Afghanistan after the US withdrawal from Kabul. A post which in January 2022 was followed by his appointment as United States representative to the OECD, an occasion in which Markell wanted to reveal to the press his main “interests” both as a politician and as a diplomat: “economic development, health care , energy», which could help us understand what awaits us from his mandate.
What awaits us
Here it is useful to return to his biography. Before entering politics, Markell worked as a banker at First Chicago Corporation, now part of (JPMorgan) Chase. Then he was a consultant at McKinsey & Company. He later served as vice president of development for Nextel, a wireless services operator that was later merged with Sprint Corporation and eventually bought by T-Mobile US. He then held an executive role in Comcast Corporation, the leading US multinational telecommunications company. Precisely in this last sector, his experience stands out, already recognized to him while he was taking his first steps in politics. In 2001, in fact, the then new Democratic governor of Delaware, Ruth Ann Minner, entrusted him with the presidency of the Information Services Task Force, charged with reforming state IT management, centralizing services and improving their security.
Telecommunications and in particular the 5G network is precisely one of the main dossiers on the table of the US diplomatic mission in Italy. While Washington can count on the loyalty of the Meloni government in supporting Ukraine, it has fewer certainties regarding China. According to a report published in December by the Danish Strand Consult, together with Austria, Germany and Poland, Italy is “heavily dependent on Chinese technologies, creating risks for itself and for the nations that use its networks”.
Not exactly a reassuring factor for the White House, which is also concerned about relations between Rome and Beijing. By the end of the year, under penalty of automatic extension, our country will have to decide whether or not to renew the memorandum of understanding for the so-called new Silk Road (Belt & Road Initiative), signed in March 2019 at the time of the Conte I government, supported by the Movimento 5 Stelle but also from the League, which is now in government with Meloni. Although the majority has long expressed its opinion on the cancellation of the agreement, the official decision has not yet been announced and the reticence of the two minor partners on condemning Russia risks creating tensions with Washington. Maybe that’s why Biden wants to send a big shot to Villa Taverna.