Video: What happens when presidents make big donors into ambassadors

posted at 9:21 am on January 24, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

“I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees,” John McCain told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but not before he had eviscerated Barack Obama’s selection as the next Ambassador to Norway. Olivier Knox reported yesterday on the hearing in which George Tsunis attempted to answer questions about his new assignment, and in doing so displayed a stunning ignorance of the political situation in the country that will host him as our highest-ranking representative. In fact, Tsunis couldn’t even name Norway’s form of government:

Tsunis described Norway as having a president (“apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy,” as the Local Norway’s News notes dryly). And he characterized the anti-immigration Progress Party as being among “fringe elements” who “spew their hatred” and have been denounced by the government.

That prompted McCain’s disbelieving answer: “The government has denounced them? The coalition government — they’re part of the coalition of the government.”

McCain, already flummoxed by the apparent inability of Obama’s choice to be ambassador to Hungary to list strategic U.S. interests there, closed his questioning with a bit of sarcasm: “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.”

So who exactly is George Tsunis? This is how the White House describes him:

George J. Tsunis, Nominee for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway, Department of State 
George J. Tsunis is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Chartwell Hotels, LLC.  From 1999 to 2009, Mr. Tsunis was of counsel at Rivkin Radler, LLP and served as partner since 2005.  Mr. Tsunis was Special Counsel to the Town of Huntington Committee on Open Space Preservation as well as Counsel to the Dix Hills Water District from 2003 to 2009.  From 1998 to 1999, he practiced law at Goldberg & Cohen in Brooklyn, NY.  From 1996 to 1998, he was a Legislative Attorney at the New York City Council.  Mr. Tsunis received a B.A. from New York University and a J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.

But Olivier found his true credentials. As a bundler for Obama in 2012, Tsunis raised almost a million dollars for the campaign, and donated $300,000 to the Democratic Party. Ironically, Tsunis raised $50,000 for McCain in 2008 before becoming a Democrat in 2009 after McCain lost the election.

Presidents have named big donors and bundlers to diplomatic posts for many decades. It’s an American tradition — one which should embarrass us, but it’s a bipartisan tradition, so it gets less attention as a result. Usually, though, the appointees at least make an effort to learn something about their new assignments before their confirmation hearings so as not to embarrass their bosses, or the rest of us.  On the latter point, it’s already too late with Tsunis.


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Is there a theme today? The first 3 posts all dealt with political campaign activity.

Steve Eggleston on January 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Steve Eggleston on January 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM

It is even more than that: Reward your political friends, punish your political enemies.

esr1951 on January 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Slave?

Bmore on January 24, 2014 at 9:30 AM

It is even more than that: Reward your political friends, punish your political enemies.

esr1951 on January 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

That is the Chicago Way, after all.

Steve Eggleston on January 24, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Tsunis learned nothing about Norway going into his job. Obama’s learned nothing about being president five full years into his job, so my guess is the ambassador wanna-be was just following his new boss’ lead.

jon1979 on January 24, 2014 at 9:36 AM

ROFL Nothing but the best and brightest in the Bark administration.

So libfree, is this the Hope or the Change? You remember, the whole drain the swamp and stop the revolving door between lobbyists, donors and the White House back from 2008…you do remember, yah?

Bishop on January 24, 2014 at 9:36 AM

Tsunis described Norway as having a president (“apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy

I’m guessing “Norwegian” would also be considered incorrect as to Norway’s form of government.

Face it, Tsunis is just going for the cocktail circuit and parties. He is not qualified for the job and he will spend little time concerned with the duties of being an Ambassador. You will not find him hunkered down in Bergen consulate due to a spontaneous protest by SK Brann supporters.

Nevertheless, not one Democrat is going to vote against his confirmation.

Happy Nomad on January 24, 2014 at 9:37 AM

This guy sounds as stupid as McCain spouting off on that “loudmouth” from Seattle.

Hill60 on January 24, 2014 at 9:37 AM

And for the rest of his life, he will demand to be called, “Mr. Amabassador.” I know three such dopes here who served as Ambassadors under Bush. All were either related to him or bundlers. I went to see one once and his secretary went out of her way to tell me, “The Ambassador will be with you shortly.” “Oh, the Ambassador apologizes for the delay.” “The Ambassador will see you now.” I think there ought to be a law that forbids the use of political titles once you are out of office. The political royalists are just too much.

flyoverland on January 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM

D’oh

cmsinaz on January 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Nothing he couldn’t have learned by a quick scan of The Economist every week. That’s why I subscribe – I may not agree with them on everything, but they dig up the obscure stories all over the place so that when someone mentions the political party in Norway that “hates immigrants” or the fraud in Pakistan over the nonfunctioning passport laminating machines that were bought from a crony, I know enough about it to say more than “Uh, um, um, yeah, I stand corrected because I haven’t the foggiest clue.”

I learned from The Economist that Paul Ryan is a bowhunter.

JoseQuinones on January 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM

What a sad state of affairs.

whbates on January 24, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Learn something about the host country? Why? INCOMPETENCE is a hallmark of this administration.

GarandFan on January 24, 2014 at 9:45 AM

He probably thinks that Norway is ruled by the Norwegian Party- from BBC Centre in London;

Norwegian Party Appeal

Smart Power!

/yeah, right

Lord, am I tired of these pseudo-intellectual kumquats.

clear ether

eon

eon on January 24, 2014 at 9:46 AM

I think there ought to be a law that forbids the use of political titles once you are out of office. The political royalists are just too much.

flyoverland on January 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM

You think the dude would have at least picked up a copy of the latest Fudor’s guidebook- if only to find out the best places to eat in Oslo.

It all reminds me of a story about Alexander Haig. As he met with newly-appointed ambassadors on their way to their assignment he took them over to a globe and told them to point out their country. Invariably, they would point to the country they were headed to- at which point Haig would make it clear that “their” country is the United States.

Something tells me that our new Ambassador to Norway will be trash talking the United States the whole time he is in Oslo.

Happy Nomad on January 24, 2014 at 9:46 AM

I learned from The Economist that Paul Ryan is a bowhunter.

JoseQuinones on January 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Ugh.

I may have to sell the ol’ McPherson.

Bishop on January 24, 2014 at 9:47 AM

I learned from The Economist that Paul Ryan is a bowhunter.

JoseQuinones on January 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Sarah Palin shoots Wolves from Helicoptors
(or so I’ve been told)

Advantage-Palin

ToddPA on January 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

I watch Lilyhammer and am therefore more qualified to be the ambassador.

roy_batty on January 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

esr1951 on January 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

That is the Chicago Way, after all.

Steve Eggleston on January 24, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Actually it is the entire religion of Godless socialism. Chicago is but one of their holy cities on the hill.

Don L on January 24, 2014 at 9:57 AM

I read the Norwegian press is just delighted that Ambassador Blutarski is being considered for the spot. They feel so respected.

Marcus on January 24, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Video: What happens when presidents make big donors into ambassadors

They get Sodomized by Islamists??

O.K., wait, I know the answer to this one…

ToddPA on January 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

The next thing you know, he’ll be lecturing the Norwegians about their dolphin hunting or….ooops, wrong qualified Ambassador.

Don L on January 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Ironically, Tsunis raised $50,000 for McCain in 2008 before becoming a Democrat in 2009 after McCain lost the election.

Ironically? Betraying McCain is probably the only reason McCain publicly embarrassed Tsunis. And then he had to do it for the other nominees too, to maintain the pretense of objectivity.

Fenris on January 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Ironically, Tsunis raised $50,000 for McCain in 2008 before becoming a Democrat in 2009 after McCain lost the election

.

He’s the first ‘Rat off of a sinking ship. Sounds like he has what the Obama administration admires most. Clever and dexterous.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Norway. At least they don’t wheel and deal in Austrian there.

Fallon on January 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM

“The overwhelming amount of Norwegians”???

SacredFire on January 24, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Pshaw! It’s Norway for cripe’s sake! What’s there to know besides that there is LOTS of snow and LOTS of lutefisk.

Everything else is just extraneous detail!

/Ambassador Tsunis

NavyMustang on January 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM

The next thing you know, he’ll be lecturing the Norwegians about their dolphin hunting or….ooops, wrong qualified Ambassador.

Don L on January 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Did Caroline Kennedy come up with that on her own, or per the Obama admin? Because if the former, that’s a major screwup. The latter too, but that’s just Obama being Obama.

Paul-Cincy on January 24, 2014 at 10:13 AM

“The overwhelming amount of Norwegians”???

SacredFire on January 24, 2014 at 10:08 AM

“How many Norwegians does it take to …”

/I forgot the joke

Paul-Cincy on January 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Just another fat turd of a government leech.

HiJack on January 24, 2014 at 10:17 AM

The guy’s reading from a script, for crying out loud!

HiJack on January 24, 2014 at 10:21 AM

If a nitwit like John McCain can gut you like a Nowegian Cod, you must truly be an imbecile.

Jaibones on January 24, 2014 at 10:22 AM

“How many Norwegians does it take to …”

/I forgot the joke

Paul-Cincy on January 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM

How many Norwegians does it take to chases 10,000 Swedes through the weeds? One.

Fenris on January 24, 2014 at 10:23 AM

It all reminds me of a story about Alexander Haig. As he met with newly-appointed ambassadors on their way to their assignment he took them over to a globe and told them to point out their country. Invariably, they would point to the country they were headed to- at which point Haig would make it clear that “their” country is the United States.

Oddly enough, I miss Alexander Haig. At least back then, most of Reagan’s cabinet were proud to be called Americans and uphold the Constitution (Haig’s “I’m in charge here” notwithstanding).

falcon on January 24, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Jeebus…. in a room filled with azzclowns like this….. being the smartest guy in the room takes an IQ of 1

roflmmfao

donabernathy on January 24, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Kinda reminds me of this classic from The Onion.

Dime IV on January 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM

I think there ought to be a law that forbids the use of political titles once you are out of office. The political royalists are just too much.

flyoverland on January 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Maybe we should revisit/amend this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_of_Nobility_Clause?

Nutstuyu on January 24, 2014 at 10:59 AM

I read the Norwegian press is just delighted that Ambassador Blutarski is being considered for the spot. They feel so respected.

Marcus on January 24, 2014 at 9:59 AM

I’d love to see Norway reject his credentials. NObama naming an ambassador doesn’t make it so until the receiving country accepts it.

Nutstuyu on January 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Ikke så bra. Ganske ikke så bra.

So, can Norway refuse to accept his credentials?

No Truce With Kings on January 24, 2014 at 11:04 AM

JoseQuinones on January 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Forget the Economist or Fodors, the dude could have spent a few minutes reading something you and I have already paid for.

Then again, so could Hillary and Jawn F’n Kerry, for that matter.

The one to worry about, though, is our smartest of the smart Ambassador to Japan…UGH.

Wanderlust on January 24, 2014 at 11:24 AM

No worries, the Norwegians are a flexible lot. I am sure they will hook him up with some kind of president. Most likely of the hamas national party. Probably give him a medal of some kind just for enduring a winter…before he goes through a winter.

jake49 on January 24, 2014 at 11:26 AM

McCain, already flummoxed by the apparent inability of Obama’s choice to be ambassador to Hungary to list strategic U.S. interests there, closed his questioning with a bit of sarcasm: “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.”

Ambassador to Hungary? Let’s see….what are her credentials?

Colleen Bell, a producer of the soap opera “The Bold And The Beautiful”

And she’s already pissing off Hungarians!

http://news.yahoo.com/hungarian-legislator-criticizes-us-ambassador-212254190.html;_ylt=A0oG7h4XlOJSVFQAAGDBGOd_;_ylu=X3oDMTB2N3ZhZnEyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2FjMgR2dGlkA1RBVVMwMjVfODQ-

And oh no surprise she is also an Obama bundler, from Wikipedia:

Colleen has been politically active in her community and was selected as a California Delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.[14][15] As a member of the National Finance Committee for Obama 2012, Ms. Bell hosted two events at her home on February 15, 2012 including a performance by the Grammy Award Winning Foo Fighters and a private dinner.[16][17][18] The proceeds from both events went to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee. In September The New York Times reported that Bell is one of Obama’s top bundlers.[19][20]

Brat on January 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

And for the rest of his life, he will demand to be called, “Mr. Amabassador.” I know three such dopes here who served as Ambassadors under Bush. All were either related to him or bundlers. I went to see one once and his secretary went out of her way to tell me, “The Ambassador will be with you shortly.” “Oh, the Ambassador apologizes for the delay.” “The Ambassador will see you now.” I think there ought to be a law that forbids the use of political titles once you are out of office. The political royalists are just too much.

flyoverland on January 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM

There was a guy like that who I ran across in San Diego 25 years ago when I lived there and got involved in GOP campaign work. He had been Ambassador to Qatar under President Reagan – and this was in an era when NOBODY knew what or where Qatar was – and always referred to himself as Ambassador. He even tried to parlay it into a run for Congress but got laughed out of the primary.

rockmom on January 24, 2014 at 11:31 AM

CIA Factbook – Norway

Christien on January 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM

I understand the conflict of interest argument, but don’t you think it would be better if our ambassadors had actual familial ties to the other country, had lived there for years, spoke the language fluently, understood the country’s culture/history/geography/economy/politics , had friends and acquaintances from different segments of the society, etc?

These bundlers already have a political conflict of interest in the U.S., so why is it so unacceptable to have someone like DarkCurrent as ambassador?

Christien on January 24, 2014 at 11:47 AM

I hope these ambassadors know that when the sh*t its the fan where ever they are at, not to call the Whitehouse.

tommer74 on January 24, 2014 at 12:09 PM

So why wasn’t the guy posted to Libya or Somalia where no one knows the form or head of the govt — then he would have had the correct answer. But someone would have to do his transportation arrangements for him because he probably couldn’t find either on a map.

KenInIL on January 24, 2014 at 12:32 PM

That was like watching a teacher call on a student to summarize a book chapter when the kid didn’t bother reading it and only skimmed the Cliff notes.

Good Lt on January 24, 2014 at 1:20 PM

There are few things in life that piss me off more than having to say job well done to John McCain.

Texas Zombie on January 24, 2014 at 1:26 PM

I’m sure that right after he enjoys the carriage ride (pace’ Caroline in Tokyo), he will launch into an anti-oil campaign and try to shame the Norwegian government into adopting California’s anti-ocean drilling policies.

Still waiting for Obama’s much touted “Smart Diplomacy” [copyright 2008] to begin. As I recall reading recently, our national image has taken a hit over the past 5 years…and this is just another example of why.

in_awe on January 24, 2014 at 2:36 PM

Good thing they eliminated the minority’s right to block these highly qualified nominees via filibuster.

Chuckles3 on January 24, 2014 at 7:11 PM