'I'll Be with You in a Minute, Mr. Ambassador'


161 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-8020-6872-3
DDC 327.71073




Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


Gotlieb served as Canadian Ambassador to the United States from 1981 to
1989, chiefly during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. His book is the
expansion of a series of lectures he delivered in 1989-90 at the
University of Toronto’s Centre for International Studies.

Profound changes in the American system of government and politics,
Gotlieb asserts, have forced diplomats to jettison traditional methods
of statecraft. Foreign ministers previously conducted their business
discreetly behind closed doors, avoiding public debate, and working
quietly through regular channels at the State Department. Today, because
of an astonishing fragmentation of power in Washington, Gotlieb finds
that diplomats no longer have any one point of focus. They must contend
with Senate and House Committees, entrenched bureaucrats, trade
associations, political action committees, think-tanks, and the media.
To succeed, ambassadors must address public forums and must constantly
lobby influential people and institutions. Gotlieb demonstrates how he
resorted to these techniques in his efforts to advance Canada’s
interests, especially regarding acid rain and free trade.

Gotlieb’s perceptive observations and his remarkable achievements can
evoke only admiration. Yet much of what he considers new or radical in
American polity is really quite traditional. Those who wrote the U.S.
Constitution purposely designed a government in which all major branches
checked and balanced the others. Numerous presidents have clashed with
Congress and the Supreme Court, and, as historian Henry Adams once
noted, the Senate is always at war with the State Department. Despite
some recent innovations, diffusion of power in Washington is not new; it
has characterized American constitutional government for the past two
hundred years.

In its entirety, Gotlieb’s generally wise and balanced work makes a
distinguished contribution to our understanding of Canadian-American


Gotlieb, Allan., “'I'll Be with You in a Minute, Mr. Ambassador',” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30555.