July 31, 2005
Senate OKs Timken as ambassador to Germany
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — The Senate has confirmed W.R. “Tim” Timken Jr., chairman of the Timken Co., as the new U.S. ambassador to Germany.
Timken’s predecessor in the post, former German Ambassador Dan Coats, said Timken has a challenging job ahead of him.
“It’s a serious post and a very active one,” said Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana. “From what I know, he’s an excellent choice.”
Under administration rules, Timken is not allowed to discuss the nomination until his “credentials” are presented to and accepted by the German government. The State Department has not said how long that process would take.
Senate consideration of Timken, originally anticipated for September, was put on a fast track to enable him to become ambassador before German elections, scheduled for Sept. 18.
As the Senate adjourned Friday night for its monthlong August recess, the Senate majority whip’s office said Timken’s nomination had not been considered or acted on by the Senate. But on Saturday, the Senate reported and the State Department confirmed the nomination was among a score approved through a special procedure called unanimous consent.
The Senate never put Timken’s nomination on hold.
Timken must resign from the chairmanship of Timken Co. before assuming the post of ambassador. He previously served as chief executive officer and president of the Canton-based manufacturer, a worldwide, Fortune 500 company.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Timken said the safety and welfare of Americans would be his top priority. He also pledged to seek closer relations between Germany and the United States and promote increased trade between the two nations.
Coats said security has transformed the job in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
“It has really changed the nature of the job, particularly in countries where U.S. policy is not readily accepted,” as in Germany, which opposed the war in Iraq, he said. “Public diplomacy as well as private diplomacy becomes very important.”
“Today, explaining American policy, advocating American policy, not only occurs in the offices of government and government officials, but you have to take it to the public because particularly in Europe, there’s a very skeptical public regarding American policy,” Coats said.
During his confirmation hearing, Timken touched on the public dimension of the job in response to a question from Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.
While recent polls indicate only 41 percent of Germans “feel strongly about the United States,” 65 percent “feel strongly about the American people,” Timken said.
He said German concern about the nation’s sluggish economy, which he expects to be a focus of the election there, “gives us an opportunity to advance public diplomacy.” Timken added that efforts by President Bush and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to improve the relationship “have given us great opportunity to make significant strides.”
Though he has never served as a diplomat, Timken has been a key financial contributor to Bush, a common prerequisite for a political appointment as ambassador.
Coats said Timken’s business experience prepares him for the economic and trade issues that make up a large part of the job. Germany has the largest economy in Europe.
“My plans are to call to congratulate him and, if he’s interested, to offer to share whatever insights I learned in my three and a half years there with him, hopefully to get him off to a good start,” said Coats, who stepped down as ambassador last February.