Shelling out ambassadorships has always been a political move by current and former presidents, but Barack Obama has gone over the usual line in terms of actual diplomatic experience and competence. It caught up with him on Thursday.
Noah Bryson Mamet, who bundled $500,000 for President Barack Obama was hoping the Senate would allow him to fly through confirmation hearings to become the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina.
Mamet made the startling admission in his confirmation hearing that he had never been to the Argentina. The admission followed two other confirmation candidates embarrassing admissions.
The nominee for ambassador to Norway, George J. Tsunis, who raised $1.3 million for the president, and the nominee to be ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bradley Bell, raised $800,000, both demonstrated little knowledge about the countries they wish to work in.
It seems that raising money for this president is the highest qualification on any candidate’s resume.
During his second term in office alone, this president has nominated 23 bundlers who raised a total of $16.1 million for him since 2007 to be ambassadors, according to the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity.
But recently alarm bells have been ringing.
Henri J. Barkey, a former Clinton administration State Department official, served on the department’s planning staff from 1998 to 2000, and is now a professor of international relations at Lehigh University. He wrote in a Washington Post, “The Obama administration’s appointments suggest that the president isn’t being honest when he says that diplomacy is important to him.”
Not only that, but he continued, “Both Democrats and Republicans reward those who helped their campaigns. But for a president who just told the nation of his commitment to reducing inequality, this practice of rewarding unqualified people, whose ‘good deed’ is to have bundled campaign funds, is particularly jarring.”
There was no comment from the White House.
Barkey is not opposed to political connected people being appointed, but they should be experienced for the diplomatic mission they are nominated for.
As Barkey put it, “There have also been political-appointee ambassadors who would have rivaled, and possibly surpassed, the best the State Department could produce. Unfortunately, some current nominees are a modern version of the 18th-century French practice of the sale of offices. Then, the income derived went to finance state activities; now, it is for financing campaigns.”
Last Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, the feisty Florida Republican, asked Mamet during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “Have you been to Argentina?”
Mamet responded, “Senator, I haven’t had the opportunity yet to be there. I travel pretty extensively around the world, but I haven’t yet had the chance.”
In a quick spin from the State Department the following day, a spokesperson “couldn’t answer whether Manet could speak Spanish.” When asked the question, she answered, “I don’t have his personal biography in front of me.”
The hell they don’t.
Tsunis, a hotel chief executive nominated to be ambassador to Norway also admitted to having never been there and thought that the country and had “no knowledge of the governing coalition or that it was a constitutional monarch.”
Meanwhile Bell, a soap opera producer, was “unaware of the political conflicts in the country or of the U.S. interest in the country that is a member of both NATO and the European Union.”
This was quickly followed the very same day that the White House announced that the president had nominated Cassandra Q. Butts, a friend of the president going back to their time at Harvard Law School, to be ambassador to the Bahamas.
Sweet – must have been really good friends.
Ironically, for such an unimportant country in the scope of American foreign policy, she seems to have the strongest credentials of the aforementioned with actual government experience having served as an aide both in the White House and for former House Democratic leader Rep. Dick Gephardt. Butts also worked for both the Center for American Progress and the NAACP.
The most "transparent administration" strikes again.
“Hope and Change.”
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