Former Clinton adviser calls Obama diplomatic appointees “a disservice”

posted at 1:21 pm on February 7, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Call this yet another extension of smart power. In recent confirmation hearings, we’ve found that Barack Obama appointments for ambassador posts have no knowledge of the government with which they’ll interact, no clue as to the strategic interests in play for the US with the assignment (a description that applies to two appointments, as we’ll see), and finally have never bothered to actually visit the country to which he’d be posted. It’s as if Barack Obama desires to confirm the old saw that Americans have little curiosity about what extends beyond our two oceans.

In today’s Washington Post, former Clinton diplomatic adviser Henri Barkley, now a professor of international relations at Lehigh, blasts the White House for its riches of embarrassment in recent appointments. Barkley accuses the Obama administration of selling offices, and warns of the dangers in sending out incompetents in important diplomatic posts:

The Obama administration’s appointments suggest that the president isn’t being honest when he says that diplomacy is important to him. Yet the administration clearly values diplomacy — officials, including the president, have emphasized that the ongoing negotiations with Iran are the way to resolve the nuclear impasse. Would Obama consider making Tsunis our negotiator? Of course not. Yet it’s illogical, and insulting, to presume that Norwegians are such wonderful and civilized people — and hence unlikely to cause any problems with Washington — that we can afford to send someone on a taxpayer-funded three-year junket to enjoy the fjords.

Even the argument that Norway is an unproblematic post for a political appointee does not pass muster. Obama’s ambassador-designate to Hungary, Colleen Bradley Bell, is a television soap opera producer (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) and also was a money-handler for the president’s reelection campaign. What qualifications does she have to be ambassador to a country in crisis? Hungary’s democratic institutions are under severe threat from the governing party, and extremists have been targeting minorities. Hungary is a member of both NATO and the European Union. Unfortunately, when asked by Sen. John McCain, Bell was incapable of identifying the U.S. strategic interests in Hungary. …

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.

Both Democrats and Republicans reward those who helped their campaigns. But 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.

Barkley isn’t the only one noticing, either. James Bruno lists the recent appointments for Politico and comes up with big cash totals, too:

The resumé imbalance, of course, owes to a simple fact: The United States is the only industrialized country to award diplomatic posts as political spoils, often to wealthy campaign contributors in an outmoded system that rivals the patronage practices of banana republics, dictatorships and two-bit monarchies. A similar system once allowed political allies to become military officers, but Congress outlawed the practice after the Civil War, during which the public recoiled at the needless slaughter brought on by incompetent cronies who had been appointed generals (men like Daniel Sickles, whose insubordination at Gettysburg caused more than 4,000 Union casualties). Representing the United States in a foreign capital, however, is a privilege still available to any moneyed dolt with party connections.

And President Obama—who entered office promising to limit the practice and instead appoint more Foreign Service professionals to ambassadorial positions—has arguably done more to exacerbate the problem than his recent predecessors. His second-term appointments have gone to political allies more than half of the time. Since World War II, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, that number has been lower: About a third of the ambassador posts have been offered to non-professional diplomats.

The reason a hotelier and a television producer, for instance, might be appealing choices is blindingly obvious: money. Bell raised $2,101,635 for President Obama’s re-election efforts. Tsunis, who flipped his affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2009, embraced his new party with gusto, raising $988,550 for the president’s 2012 bid.

Among the ambassadors serving in 10 of the choicest cities in Europe and the Caribbean, the average amount raised per posting in the last election was $1.79 million, according to the Guardian newspaper. And the cost for a plush post in a city like Rome, Paris, Stockholm or Canberra seems to be going up. The Guardian reported that appointees to these embassies raised a total of $5 million in 2012, up from $3.3 million in 2008, $1.3 million in 2004 and $800,000 in 2000.

Maybe the US Senate could step in and force Obama to stop appointing fundraising hacks to represent America abroad. They had the chance with Max Baucus, a former member of the club who claimed to have no knowledge of the strategic implications of the air-defense zone claims of China, where Baucus was appointed as Ambassador. The Senate confirmed Baucus yesterday to that post … in a vote of 96-0.

Smart power is apparently contagious.


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I think we are about to see a Clinton-Soros civil war break out in the Democrat Party.

Soros spurned Hilldebeast in 2008 for the much more malleable Obama.

He will do so again in 2016.

ConstantineXI on February 7, 2014 at 1:24 PM

I would call them treasonous, but hey, that’s me.

PrettyMooch on February 7, 2014 at 1:27 PM

No thread on this topic would be complete without referencing Obama’s attempt to sell his U.S. Senate seat, using Blagojevich as middleman.

I’ve got this thing and it’s fvck­ing golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fvckin’ noth­ing.

Christien on February 7, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Y’know, it would seem …ummm…logical to appoint someone as our Ambassador who actually was familiar withat country…or, at least was sharp-witted enough to learn.

kingsjester on February 7, 2014 at 1:31 PM

selling offices

Why not? It’s “the Chicago way”!

GarandFan on February 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Maybe the US Senate could step in and force Obama to stop appointing fundraising hacks to represent America abroad. They had the chance with Max Baucus, a former member of the club who claimed to have no knowledge of the strategic implications of the air-defense zone claims of China, where Baucus was appointed as Ambassador. The Senate confirmed Baucus yesterday to that post … in a vote of 96-0.

Ed, how can the US Senate really step in since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option? Yes, technically, it was only for ‘critical’ nominations, but what’s to say that the Majority Leader will not call the importance to fill an Ambassadorship a ‘critical’ nomination?

I look at this problem, and it’s a real problem, as just more evidence of the contempt that Barack Obama and his inner circle have towards the US, it’s foreign policy, and it’s citizens.

Henri Barkley is, IMO, right on the mark with his criticisms and observations…

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.

Some of us joke about the Obama WH being fundamentally little different than Louis XVI’s court at Versailles – or link their brand of progressivism to the Jacobins that replaced Louis’s court, so seeing Obama effectively selling Ambassadorships in a manner like that practiced then just makes the comparison fit a little better.

That aside, Barkley’s last paragraph in Ed’s quote, is powerful…

Both Democrats and Republicans reward those who helped their campaigns. But 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.

Athos on February 7, 2014 at 1:34 PM

*BUNDLERS *

Obama rewards big bundlers with jobs, commissions, stimulus money, government contracts, and more

2:00 am, June 15, 2011
Updated: 5:09 pm, March 8, 2012
********************************

These “bundlers” raised at least $50,000 and sometimes more than $500,000 in campaign donations for Obama’s campaign. Many of those in the “Class of 2008” are now being asked to bundle contributions for Obama’s re-election, an effort that could cost $1 billion.

As a candidate, Obama spoke passionately about diminishing the clout of moneyed interests and making the White House more accessible to everyday Americans. In kicking off his presidential run on Feb. 10, 2007, he blasted “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests,” who he said had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.”

The iWatch News investigation found:
************************************

• Overall, 184 of 556, or about one-third, of Obama bundlers or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took “key administration posts,” as defined by the White House. More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million.

• The big bundlers had broad access to the White House for meetings with top administration officials and glitzy social events. In all, campaign bundlers and their family members account for more than 3,000 White House meetings and visits. Half of them raised $200,000 or more.

• Some Obama bundlers have ties to companies that stand to gain financially from the president’s policy agenda, particularly in clean energy and telecommunications, and some already have done so. Level 3 Communications, for instance, snared $13.8 million in stimulus money. At least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from government spending to promote clean energy, telecommunications and other key administration priorities.

Some bundlers trade on their campaign largesse for Obama to further career aspirations or business plans. Others, already successful, simply enjoy the exclusive stature bestowed by ties to the White House. Lena L. Kennedy, for instance, papers her Southern California consulting website with photographs of herself with Obama. She put out a press release announcing a June 13 fundraiser featuring Michelle Obama in Los Angeles; ticket prices ran from $1,000 to $10,000, the latter “allowing a photo opportunity and private time with the First Lady.” She declined to comment for this article.

“Some people just crave attention and some people just like getting the notoriety or attention of being a big player,” said Thomas M. McInerney, a San Francisco lawyer who bundled at least $100,000 for Obama. He said he didn’t ask for or get anything in return, though he knew others who did. “There was so much money this time, and there were so many people involved in raising the money, the number of people looking for something was exponentially more.”
Rewarding the donors

While the Obama administration tightened restrictions on hiring lobbyists, the deference it has shown major donors contradicts its claims to have changed business as usual in Washington, critics said.

Others said Obama strains credulity in claiming to bring reform to Washington while carrying on the patronage practices of past administrations. They added that many big donors aren’t shy about asking for specific favors, which gives candidates of both parties little choice but to keep patronage alive.(More…)
===================================================

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2011/06/15/4880/obama-rewards-big-bundlers-jobs-commissions-stimulus-money-government-contracts-and

canopfor on May 6, 2013 at 10:01 PM

canopfor on February 7, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Top Bundlers are already Locked in for 2012 Employment!!

Lets ReVisit!!
————–

Remember,Bundlers form 2008,are already going to get employment in 2012!!
——–—-

27 Obama bundlers have already topped $500,000
Updated: 8:49 am, July 28, 2011
*******************************

More than 40 bundlers from 2008 who received government appointments after Obama’s election have returned as major fundraisers.

iWatch News reported in June how many bundlers from the 2008 campaign had jobs or commission spots from the administration.

In total, 43 bundlers from 2008 later received government appointments and have returned as bundlers for 2012.

Of those, five were listed as giving $500,000 or more so far in 2012. They are:
===============

John Emerson, of Beverly Hills, who was appointed to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, raised at least $100,000 in 2008.

Michael Kempner, Cresskill, N.J., was named to the Council for Community Solutions. He bundled $100,000 for the 2008 campaign.

Kirk Rudy, of Austin, Texas, was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He raised at least $200,000 for 2008.

Andy Spahn, a $50,000 bundler in 2008 who was appointed to the President’s Commission on Arts and Humanities, has raised more than $500,000 so far for 2012.

Jane Stetson, of Norwich, Vt., a $200,000 bundler in 2008, also has reached the $500,000 milestone for 2012.

She is a chair of the Democratic National Committee and her husband was appointed to the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
More……….)
=========

http://www.iwatchnews.org/2011/07/15/5241/27-obama-bundlers-have-already-topped-500000

canopfor on September 26, 2011 at 6:51 PM

canopfor on April 15, 2012 at 5:06 PM

canopfor on July 16, 2013 at 3:40 PM

canopfor on February 7, 2014 at 1:39 PM

I beg to differ on one point. They have put their cronies in position in the military.

crankyoldlady on February 7, 2014 at 1:43 PM

So I guess he isn’t transforming DC, as promised…shocka..

hillsoftx on February 7, 2014 at 1:44 PM

crankyoldlady on February 7, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Are you katiethemeanoldlady?

OmahaConservative on February 7, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Democrat Foreign Policy Failure (s)!

I wonder why!

canopfor on February 7, 2014 at 1:46 PM

selling offices

.
Why not? It’s “the Chicago way”!

GarandFan on February 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

.
I was thinking of a couple of words :

R O D . B L A G O J E V I C H . . . . . . . . .

listens2glenn on February 7, 2014 at 1:50 PM

There are a lot of people who supported Obama who are going to be filthy rich by the time his reign of terror is over. I decided a long time ago that ” fundamentally change America” means take America’s wealth, reward your friends with it and destroy your enemies.

KayK2 on February 7, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Why not? It’s “the Chicago way”!

GarandFan on February 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Yeah, it’s effing golden!

Happy Nomad on February 7, 2014 at 1:54 PM

Obama’s ambassador-designate to Hungary, Colleen Bradley Bell, is a television soap opera producer (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) and also was a money-handler for the president’s reelection campaign. What qualifications does she have to be ambassador to a country in crisis?

According to team Obama, Bell recently had goulash for dinner at a Holiday Inn Express.

pwrefugee on February 7, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Why not? It’s “the Chicago way”!

GarandFan on February 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

.
I was thinking of a couple of words :

R O D . B L A G O J E V I C H . . . . . . . . .

listens2glenn on February 7, 2014 at 1:50 PM

listens2glenn:Ya both, have scored——————:0

canopfor on February 7, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Dart board dipomacy

StubbornGreenBurros on February 7, 2014 at 2:01 PM

err..diplomacy

StubbornGreenBurros on February 7, 2014 at 2:01 PM

Former Clinton adviser calls Obama diplomatic appointees “a disservice”

Do we really expect this administration to be sharp on foreign affairs. They had a fat pig roam the world on an Air Force 757 for the first four years. The President says we have 57 states and that Argentina is staking out a claim on the Maldives and Hawaii is in Asia.

In short, these people are culturally and geographically challenged outside of knowing facts about the various wards in the greater Chicago area.

Happy Nomad on February 7, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Here is another diplomat candidate being grilled by the senate.She will be a good fit to represent the US.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

docflash on February 7, 2014 at 2:47 PM

The Senate confirmed Baucus yesterday to that post … in a vote of 96-0.

Baucus is no smarter (and in some ways, less accomplished) than any of the others, but you didn’t think for one minute that the Senate Club would EVER do anything to embarrass one of their own. Yep, NOT ONE had any reservations at all about approving Baucus.

Best damn club in the world.

bofh on February 7, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Mark Knoller ‏@markknoller 10m

Good diplomatic post. Pres Obama to nominate former WH and campaign counsel Cassandra Butts to be US Ambassador to the Bahamas.

canopfor on February 7, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Dear leader was unqualified when he got his job and look how well that’s turned out.

Kissmygrits on February 7, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Obama’s diploatic appointees perfectly represent and reflect his administration

shallow and ignorant

ploome on February 7, 2014 at 3:14 PM

some current nominees are a modern version of the 18th-century French practice of the sale of offices.

An 18th century French practice, and a 21st century Chicago (and, since January 2009, a Washington, D.C.) practice.

But who could have possibly foreseen that a corrupt Chicago machine politician would bring to the presidency the same corrupt practices that helped get him elected in Chicago?

Oh, if only there had been some clue . . . .

AZCoyote on February 7, 2014 at 3:19 PM

I spent a number of years in the Philippines during the Marcos years, and I have to say, Barry’s administration reminds me very much of old Ferdinand and Imelda.

With less class.

dinahmoehumm on February 7, 2014 at 3:21 PM

when asked by Sen. John McCain, Bell was incapable of identifying the U.S. strategic interests in Hungary. …

When asked for her reaction, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy responded:

Wow man, that’s like, totally, like, messed up, man. Everybody, like, knows that, like, U.S. strategic interests in, like, Hungary, are like, getting more, like, food to the children, man.

AZCoyote on February 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Are you katiethemeanoldlady?

OmahaConservative on February 7, 2014 at 1:46 PM

No.

crankyoldlady on February 7, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Is that a slap in the face towards Ambassador Stevens?

Is this what he died for?

right2bright on February 7, 2014 at 4:20 PM

The Senate will never prevent a president from appointing political buddies from diplomatic posts as payment for support because it might prevent them from being able to do it themselves in the future.

Tinker on February 7, 2014 at 5:12 PM