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Obama's ambassador problem

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No, this is not apt to rise to the ranks of the other “phony scandals” plaguing the Obama administration, such as the IRS targeting of conservative groups or Benghazi. But it does put the lie to another Obama promise, this one his “commitment to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here.”

The president is not by definition a Beltway insider, yet he plays the political quid pro quo game as well as the most seasoned DC denizen.

This is readily reflected in his recent awarding of ambassadorships to two former campaign bundlers, both of whom failed the first qualification for a job in foreign service: Neither has set foot in the country to which he has been assigned as America’s top diplomat.

First it was George Tsunis, the new U.S. ambassador to Norway, who, apart from having never visited, spoke in his hearing last month of the Scandinavian country’s “president.” Norway is a constitutional monarchy, with a ceremonial king, a prime minister, and a parliament — but no president.

America’s next ambassador to Argentina, Noah Bryson Mamet, appeared before the Senate on Thursday where he was asked if had ever been to the South American nation. His answer:

I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there. I've traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven't yet had a chance.

One might cue the line that ”but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night,” but in reality Mamet raised half a million dollars for Obama and the Democrats, which is no joke.

Neither are the blots on other Obama appointees to ambassador posts. This was a topic of conversation at a State Department press conference on Friday. The Washington Free Beacon reports that the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin took State Department spokeswoman and inveterate smirker Jen Psaki to task over her claim that Obama political appointees generally have made good ambassadors.

Rogin, citing the State Department’s own Inspector General Office, listed a litany of transgressions committed by Obama administration ambassadors who were political appointees. The embarrassments Rogin highlighted included the Ambassador to the Bahamas taking 270 personal days over 18 months and the Ambassador to Belgium being investigated for soliciting prostitutes in the park near his house.

A video of the exchange is here. A transcript follows.

JOSH ROGIN: Just a quick follow-up on your point?

JEN PSAKI: Sure.

ROGIN: Sometimes political appointees can make good ambassadors, but there is a track record here, according to the State Department IG’s Office, Obama’s appointee to Ambassador of Luxembourg ran that embassy into the ground; the ambassador to the Bahamas took 270 personal days in a year and a half. The ambassador to Belgium was reportedly investigated by your own IG’s office for procuring prostitutes in the park in front of his house. So I’m wondering if you — do you — do you draw a distinction between people like Walter Mondale, who are, like, life-long public servants, and political donors and bundlers who have no professional or international experience whatsoever?

PSAKI: Well, Josh, I would say obviously I’m not going to speak to a range of reports, and there are — there are people of all sorts of backgrounds that make poor choices but — and in some of these rules. But what I was conveying is that there are people who have broad backgrounds, backgrounds in — as leading companies, backgrounds working in important roles in the private sector, who take the step to be public servants, and that’s an important thing I think we should all applaud, and that’s part of what we’re seeing. So –

On the one hand, Obama is conniving. On the other he is incompetent. And that’s not including his most famous ambassadorial fail: The “miscommunication” that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

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