Skip to comments.Ambassadorships: Qualified Applicants Need Not Apply?
Posted on 03/22/2014 9:21:54 AM PDT by Kaslin
Im no real expert on China. Sobering words to hear from the man nominated by President Obama to be U.S. ambassador to China.
But thats what Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said during his confirmation hearing in January when asked some detailed questions about U.S.-China policy.
At least Baucus had actually been to China. Not all of President Obamas nominees for ambassadorships can say that. Consider this exchange between Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Noah Mamet, during the latters confirmation hearing to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina:
Rubio: Mr. Mamet, have you been to Argentina?
Mamet: Senator, I havent had the opportunity yet to be there. Ive traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I havent yet had a chance.
Others have displayed an alarmingly flimsy grasp of how politics work in the country where they would serve.
For example, when Sen. John McCain asked George Tsunis, prospective ambassador to Norway, What do you think the appeal of the Progress Party was to the Norwegian voters? Tsunis called them a fringe element that Norway has been very quick to denounce. At which point McCain noted that the Progress Party is part of Norways coalition government. I stand corrected, Tsunis replied.
But lets ask a more basic question: Why are there political ambassadors?
Over many years of traveling around the world, I have had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary women and men who have served as U.S. representatives on every continent. Some have been career foreign service officers, others have been political appointees.
By and large, these individuals have performed yeoman service to represent our country under often difficult and challenging circumstances. I remember long sessions with former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, a Democrat appointed by Jimmy Carter and reappointed by Ronald Reagan to the critically important post of ambassador to Japan. He was later succeeded by House Speaker Tom Foley, and then by Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, a Republican.
Today, the post of Ambassador to Japan is held by a famous person whose qualifications for appointment to the Embassy in Tokyo are, well, limited. Caroline Kennedy may have caught the fancy of the Japanese people, but her qualifications to represent our nation in one of the most important posts internationally are not obvious.
The most recent round of Obama appointees, however, are so ill-qualified that even The Daily Shows John Stewart made fun of them. The ambassadors-designate to Argentine, Iceland, Norway and Hungary had never stepped foot in the country to which they would be accredited as the U.S. representative.
Their main qualification seems to be that they raised millions for the presidents reelection campaign. Sure, blatantly political appointees are nothing new, but this latest batch apparently cant even be bothered to Google the country theyd serve in as ambassadors.
The Obama administration has made some good political appointees, such as Louis Sussman, former ambassador to London. I had the privilege of serving on the U.S. Information Agencys Oversight Board with Sussman for several years.
But you dont nominate someone just because he or she raised money for the president, particularly if they lack knowledge of the country to which they would represent the United States.
Argentina is a linchpin country in Latin America with politically unstable leadership. Norway is one of Europes largest energy suppliers and the NATO bulwark on the Northern Flank. Iceland has had a tough economic recovery and is strategically located in the heart of the North Atlantic. Hungary is a former Soviet state and a fellow NATO member that borders Ukraine.
Its a sad commentary when not only TV commentators, but late-night comedians make fun of Americas representatives overseas. President Obama once vowed to have civil servants, wherever possible, serve in these posts. What happened to that promise?
This is nothing new.
The president is unqualified for his job. Who would expect him to appoint qualified people to work under him?
Let’s hope these professional buttheads and political grandstanders have qualified staff.
So their staff will be people who they know and like to party with.
Low level clerks will be running the embassy, (not that that is new) but there generally was someone they could go to when there was an actual problem. Now? Not unless the problem is how to order a martini.
I understand rewarding financial supporters with ambassadorships. It’s been a reward program for years with Presidents of both parties.
What may be different (and I can’t provide details) is that the ambassadorships to major countries, especially those which are usually in opposition to US interests such as Russia and China have traditionally gone to State Department careerists or individuals with serious gravitas and experience in foreign affairs.
Clearly, ambassadorships to friendly countries like England and France which are considered to be plum assignments because of their culture have been made to political supporters, but they were recognized to be social and ceremonial appointments, not serious working ambassadors.
Sending a political crony and donor to countries like China or Russia is stupid and an insult.
I continue to be amused by the delicious irony of Caroline Kennedy as the Ambassador to Japan. She would not exist on this earth had the Empire of Japan’s cruiser captain been successful in running down her dad.
The U.S. has been sending out ambassadors with no more qualifications than political financial support for the president for hundreds of years.
He has never been qualified for the job. Neither has he been qualified for US Senator. The only thing he qualified for was community organizer, and maybe that’s even doubtful.
>>He has never been qualified for the job. Neither has he been qualified for US Senator. The only thing he qualified for was community organizer, and maybe thats even doubtful.
Since the job of community organizer requires nothing but a will to destroy and steal, most 5 year olds are qualified (and responsible adults are not).