Obama's Ambassador Problem

President Obama is making a mockery of ambassadorships. His latest nomination for US ambassador to Argentina, Noah Bryson Mamet, is a very rich bundler for Obama. The trouble, as he admitted during his confirmation hearings, is he's never stepped foot in Argentina. One might think that would be relevant to his ability to do his job. George Tsunis, a hotelier and another political fundraiser for Obama, had a similarly cringe-worthy confirmation hearing last month when he showed an utter lack of any knowledge of Norway's political parties, something had he spent five minutes on Wikipedia he could have mastered, even taking back his own answers under pressure from a quizzical John McCain.

Our foreign policy will continue to be a eight-year-long trainwreck and second-rate operation so long as Obama anoints his richest bundlers as ambassadors. I think political operatives, whose calling card is their ability to schmooze and shake people down, are not qualified to be ambassadors in countries with sensitive relations with us (like, I dunno, Argentina). Maybe those are good traits to have to for a successful ambassadorial position where there is little action and mostly just wining and dining. Call me crazy but I like my ambassadors to have worldly experience, maybe even know a language or two. Sometimes it's nice when they've actually been to the country they are posted to.

State Department Jen Psaki responded to the criticism by saying, "Our approach has continued to be approximately a 70/30 balance of career employees." But that is untrue. If you do the math, under Obama, the number of political appointees relative to career diplomats is higher than under both of his predecessors. According to the American Foreign Service Association, 35 percent of Obama's selections for ambassador have been political appointees, compared with 30 percent of President George W. Bush's choices and 28 percent of President Clinton's picks. In fact, Obama has rewarded his political bundlers like no president in history. Even as he decries political patronage and having to shake down his supporters for cash, Obama is apparently very savvy when it comes to giving out cushiony jobs to connected politicos with zero relevant foreign policy experience.

Obviously if we had skilled diplomats in all our embassies abroad it might not made a shred of difference. But why not try? After all, the norm with most European countries is not to reward ambassadorships to the highest bidder. This is a shameful side of the Obama administration, and should give Americans pause when they consider why our foreign policy is a shambles.

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