It has often been said that you can tell when a politician is lying, because their lips are moving.
So with that said, it must be good for America that President Obama said he believes in openness, transparency and the value of diplomacy on the international stage. Unfortunately, none of those things appear to be true.
Obama has been handing out ambassadorships like dealing cards at a friendly Friday night poker game. Of course, he is not the only president to do that, it has always been part of the Washington game of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
Looking back at the two previous presidents, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush appointed friends and supporters as ambassadors. 28% of Clinton’s appointments and 30% of Bush’s appointments were not career diplomats. Obama exceeded their efforts by ramping up to 37%.
The really big difference is that the Clinton and Bush appointees at least had a clue about what they were doing. The Obama appointees appear to be clueless dorks who couldn’t even be bothered to research the countries they would be going to. President Obama has gone way over the line by proposing people with no diplomatic experience and not even the sense to research the chosen destination.
Thankfully, due to the diligence of the Senate in the appointment process, it caught up with president Obama and his fundamentally clueless nominees on Thursday.
Noah Bryson Mamet, who bundled $500,000 for President Barack Obama was dealt the cards for U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Mamet came crashing down to earth in the Senate confirmation hearings when he made the startling admission that he had never been to Argentina.
Mamet’s admission followed embarrassing admissions by two other confirmation nominees.
The nominee for ambassador to Norway, George J. Tsunis, raised $1.3 million for the president, and the nominee for ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bradley Bell, raised $800,000. Neither demonstrated any knowledge of the countries they were nominated for.
Note to President Obama: the primary qualifying criteria for an ambassadorship is not the amount of money raised for your campaigns, nor is it cluelessness about world affairs.
During his second term in office alone, president Obama nominated 23 bundlers who raised a total of $16.1 million for him since 2007, according to the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity.
So brazen and ridiculous are Obama’s nominations that alarm bells are ringing.
A Poke In The Eye
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 Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University. He wrote in the Washington Post, “The Obama administration’s appointments suggest that the president isn’t being honest when he says that diplomacy is important to him.”
Barkey had a message for both sides of politics, when he said, “Both Democrats and Republicans reward those who helped their campaigns.” He had a special message for Obama, “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.”
Needless to say, the White House did not comment.
Barkey says he is not opposed to politically connected people being nominated, but they should at least have some experience and knowledge of the diplomatic mission they are nominated for.
According to Barkey, some political appointees have been excellent choices. “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.”
It was Senator Marco Rubio who asked Mamet during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “Have you been to Argentina?”
Mamet’s response was surprising, “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.”
The next day, a State Department official was asked if Mamet could speak spanish, the language spoken in Argentina. She said she “couldn’t answer whether Manet could speak Spanish … I don’t have his personal biography in front of me.”
Why not? Doesn’t the State Department do any preparation for nominees these days?
George J. Tsunis, a hotel chief executive nominated to be ambassador to Norway also admitted he had never been to Norway. He also said he had no knowledge of the governing coalition and he didn’t even know Norway is a constitutional monarchy.
Colleen Bradley Bell, a soap opera producer nominated for Hungary, said she was “unaware of the political conflicts in the country.” She had no knowledge of U.S. interests in Hungary, a member of both NATO and the European Union.
A Worthwhile Nominee?
The White House also announced the president nominated Cassandra Quin Butts, a friend of the president’s from Harvard Law School days, to be ambassador to the Bahamas.
She served as Deputy White House Counsel, focusing on domestic policy and ethics and was on the advisory board for then-president-elect Barack Obama’s presidential transition team. She stepped down as Deputy White House Counsel after only 11 months, and is now a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Chief Executive Officer at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Ms. Butts also worked for former House Democratic leader Rep. Dick Gephardt, the Center for American Progress and the NAACP, and appears to have the strongest credentials of the four recent nominees, with actual government experience. Unfortunately, her nomination is for the Bahamas, a relatively unimportant country to the US, other than as a tourist destination and offshore Banking center.
The most “transparent administration” strikes again.
Sigh! “Hope and Change!” Let’s hope we get some change soon.