Even Jon Stewart thinks that President Obama’s recent ambassador picks are unqualified.
Several of the nominees to head foreign embassies are fat-cats with a primary resume enhancer of raising at least $500,000 for the Obama reelection effort. In political speak, these one-percenters are referred to as bundlers.
Earlier this month, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared The Daily Show, Stewart talked about the corrupting influence of money in politics when it comes in particular to the botched Obamacare rollout. In commenting on Obama’s ambassadors, Stewart quipped that “I hadn’t realized that the Democrats were impervious to Benjamin Franklin’s charms… Is there a rule that ambassadors can’t have set foot in the country they’re going to ambassador? Would it ruin the surprise?” Stewart is a generally an Obama supporter and a fan of Big Government initiatives.
Ordinarily, an administration selects most of its ambassadors from a list of career foreign service officers, although that’s no guarantee that they will be competent either.
With this recent group, however, it’s not just that they have never visited the country — they seem unfamiliar with the issues in the country to which they may be assigned:
The nominee for ambassador to Norway, for example, prompted outrage in Oslo by characterizing one of the nation’s ruling parties as extremist. A soap-opera producer slated for Hungary appeared to have little knowledge of the country she would be living in. A prominent Obama bundler nominated to be ambassador to Argentina acknowledged that he had never set foot in the country and isn’t fluent in Spanish. Even former senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the new US ambassador in Beijing, managed to raise eyebrows during his confirmation hearing by acknowledging, ‘I’m no real expert on China.’ “
According to NPR, “President Obama used to say that he wanted to rely more on career diplomats to serve as US ambassadors. But the State Department’s professional association, the American Foreign Service Association or AFSA, says that he has named a higher percentage of political appointees than his predecessors. He’s given plum assignments to political donors such as [Colleen] Bell, who have made headlines recently with embarrassing gaffes at their confirmation hearings.”
US Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recently blasted what he called some of the ignorant ambassador nominees who have testified at their Senate confirmation hearings, which are usually a mere formality. “[I]t’s also really disturbing because it’s a disservice to our country to send that kind of unqualified candidate to represent us and our interest there in these countries.”
Since the Democrats in the US Senate changed the filibuster rule to allow nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority, the likelihood is that these picks will go through anyway unless the outcry becomes bipartisan.
While all presidents have nominated cronies as US overseas ambassadors, ABC News explained that it’s a little different this time: “Obama has rewarded political supporters plum ambassadorships more than his predecessors. So far, 37 percent of Obama’s appointments have been political, compared to 30 percent under George W. Bush and 28 percent under Bill Clinton. In his second term, Obama has named more political than career appointments, 39 versus 36… Fundraising aside, the qualifications of Obama’s big bundler nominees are being called into question after several of them flopped their confirmation hearings. The question and answer sessions were so embarrassing, it may give future presidents pause about continuing the tradition of rewarding donors with diplomatic posts.”
Do you think these big spenders are buying cushy Obama ambassadorships or is this just business as usual?