Yesterday, Barack Obama succeeded in pushing US foreign policy further down the crapper. The Senate voted to confirm two monumentally unqualified party hacks and bag-people as ambassador.
The Senate, rejecting an impassioned plea from [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ] (R-Ariz.), on Tuesday confirmed two major Obama campaign contributors for ambassadorships to Hungary and Argentina.
The confirmations of Hollywood television producer Colleen Bell to Budapest and Noah Mamet to Buenos Aires had sparked unusual controversy — including a letter in opposition from 15 former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association, the union of career diplomats — after their faltering performances in their confirmation hearings.
Bell stumbled when [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ] (R-Ariz.) asked her what America’s strategic interests were in Hungary, which has become a difficult posting in recent years as the government cracks down on dissenters.
McCain implored the Senate to vote against the nomination. He said he understood that “rewarding supporters to cushy jobs in the Caribbean is something both parties do.” But “this is a very important country where bad things are going on,” he said. McCain said that Bell’s experience “has been producing the television soap opera ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’” and that she is “totally unqualified for this position and this country.” (She has managed the on-and-off-again romantic tension between Ridge and Brooke for decades though …)
Giving ambassadorial positions to prominent political supporters has a long tradition and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long a there is a modicum of competence and the posting isn’t a challenging one. And career foreign service officers are often no better as ambassadors than amateurs. No presidential friend has single-handedly set off a war. The foreign service can’t make that claim. Those are not the facts here.
The critical nominee is Colleen Bell. Bell is a soap opera producer who bundled or donated nearly three million dollars for Obama. She is to be posted to Budapest. Budapest is not only a NATO ally, but one that is being wooed by Russia and seems poised to slip into Putin’s brand of neo-fascism. (reported on at RedState) Not only is Hungary making life increasingly difficult for anyone not getting with the program, Bell could not identify a single US strategic interest in Hungary.
Argentina is also in the throes of economic and social unrest — this is nearly a national pastime in Argentina — and it is a major power in Latin America. Given the unpleasant noises that keep emanating from Buenos Aires on things like the Falklands a prudent person would conclude that this is the job for someone with some ties to, or at least familiarity with, the existing Argentine power structure. But in the Time of Obama you would be wrong. In Obama’s very cloistered and parochial view, one foreign country, full of foreigners who can’t legally give him money or even vote for him unless they come here illegally, is pretty much like another. And if your ambassador can’t find it on a map, no problem, the only map he needs is the one to get him to the airport. The only requirement is that he’s raised boodles of cash for you.
Left in doubt is the fate of the nominee to Norway. hotel magnate George Tsunis. At his confirmation hearing he thought that Norway had a president — it doesn’t, it is a constitutional monarchy — and he labeled one party in the ruling parliamentary coalition as “extremist.”
McCain then turned to George Tsunis, founder and chief executive of Chartwell Hotels, who bundled or contributed more than $1.3 million for Obama in 2012 — and gave $50,000 to McCain in 2008! — and thus is the nominee for ambassador to Norway. His performance, one Norwegian news outlet said, was “faltering, incoherent” and displayed a “total ignorance” of the country.
McCain asked him about the “anti-immigration” Progress Party in Norway.“You get some fringe elements that have a microphone and spew their hatred,” Tsunis said. “And I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them.”
“The government has denounced them?” McCain said. They are “part of the governing coalition,” he said, so they were hardly being denounced.
“I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees,” McCain derisively concluded after another minute or so.
His showing was so weak that the Senate didn’t vote on his nomination, putting it off until the new Congress convenes. In fact, Norwegian media has protested Tsunis’s nomination.
Everyone knows that ambassadorial appointments are presidential perquisites. But some level of competence in making these appointments is necessary before the nation and its foreign policy become laughingstocks. The appointments of Bell and Mamet represent the complete triumph of selfishness and greed over the needs of the nation.