By Ashcroft, Thomas J.
Insight on the News , Vol. 14, No. 3
Even if you're a Spam fan, making the son of the canned meat's originator the next ambassador to Luxembourg may leave you with a tummy ache. President Clinton nominated and a Senate committee cleared James C. Hormel -- an heir to Hormel Meat Packing Co. fortune and the son of Spam developer Jay C. Hormel -- to assume the diplomatic post.
Jim Hormel, 64, is a San Francisco businessman and philanthropist, a University of Chicago law-school graduate and former dean of students, the divorced father of five adult children -- and a stalwart promoter of homosexuality. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that, if confirmed, Hormel would be the "first openly gay ambassador to represent the United States."
Hormel earlier was passed over for two other envoy posts. A key supporter of the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992, Hormel asked to be named ambassador to Norway because, as he was quoted in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, "they were about to pass legislation that would acknowledge same-sex relationships." He felt his appointment "would be welcome in a country like that."
The Clinton administration, however, considered him in 1994 for ambassador to Fiji, a small island group in the South Pacific. That idea withered, according to Hormel, when the Washington Post reported, and Fiji papers picked up on the irony, that he would be serving in a country with criminal laws against sodomy.
"That immediately triggered some activity by the missionaries over in Fiji, who didn't feel that would be suitable," Hormel said. "And the White House, confronted by the pressure from the Fijian government, stalled the appointment."
Not ready to give up, Hormel hung in with Clinton-Gore. According to the Examiner, he made early donations totaling $125,000 to the 1996 reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, mostly after phone calls and a meeting with Vice President Al Gore. A DNC staffer told Gore in a memo, "He [Hormel] is very happy about the administration's support for gay and lesbian antidiscrimination in the work place policy."
Hormel's persistence and largess paid off. In October, President Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a beautiful country of 998 square miles and 130 ancient castles, in the heart of western Europe, surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany. More than 90 percent of its people are Catholic. In November, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee favorably reported the nomination, but at least two Republicans objected to the action before Congress recessed. …