It's no secret that ambassador posts frequently go to heavyweight campaign donors. But those posts are usually limited to reasonably pleasant countries with limited strategic value, while the high profile posts in strategic countries go to experienced diplomats. Even the campaign donors almost always have at least some qualifications for the post or specific knowledge of the country they're being assigned to.
Welcome to the world of President Obama, where things are done differently.
Prolific Democratic campaign fundraiser Noah Mamet, who bundled over $1 million in campaign donations to President Obama's two presidential election campaigns had his confirmation hearings today for his new post as our Ambassador to Argentina, one of South America's most important countries. He admitted today that he's never been to Argentina, and knows very little about the country, its politics or its history.
In January, another Obama bundler, George Tsunis who's usual job is running a chain of hotels got the nod from the Obama Administration to be our ambassador to Norway. Under questioning, not only did he admit he had never been to Norway, but he revealed abysmal ignorance of the country itself, referring to Norway's 'president' (it's a constitutional monarchy with a king and a parliament, but no president) and referring to the Norwegian Progress Party, which wants curbs on immigration 'fringe elements' that 'spew their hatred.'
'Norway has been very quick to denounce them,' he said. It fell to Senator John McCain to correct him and clue him in that the Progress Party is an important part of Norway's new, more conservative coalition government with 7 cabinet ministers.
Hey, insulting the government you're going to be dealing with if you're confirmed as our ambassador as well as revealing you're a clueless buffoon..not bad for a day's work!
Oh, and Mr. Tunis' unique and special qualifications for an ambassadorship? He raised $1.3 million for Obama's re-election and that of a few other select Democrats. And yes, the Senate confirmed his appointment, which I'm sure will send an interesting message to Norway.
I've already written about retiring democrat Senator Max Baucus, who was nominated as our ambassador to China admitting he knew nothing about the country after a question on tensions between China and Japan:
He's already been confirmed too. Just a worthy Democrat member of the Senate club who knows where a few bodies are buried, now off to bungle an important diplomatic assignment.
Oh, and then there's Colleen Bell, a soap opera producer who was chosen to become our ambassador to Hungary based on the $800,000 she raised for the president. Asked a question about our strategic interests with one of the more important nations in Eastern Europe, she revealed she had absolutely no clue what they meant. She'll likely be confirmed too.
There's two things at work here that concern me.
First of all, if you think these countries aren't paying attention, you're mistaken. And so are some other countries, some of them not so friendly to America who now have additional evidence that we are no longer a serious world leader and can be discounted.The stories about these senate hearings are front page news overseas.
Second, there's President Obama's naked disrespect for the Senate and for his country. Normally, presidential nominees, especially ambassadors spend some time being intensely briefed before a senate confirmation hearing so they don't embarrass themselves or the president. That is, they're briefed and rehearsed when the president gives a damn and has the slightest respect for his country and the senate.
We're dealing here with a president who either doesn't care or whom can't be bothered.