Tapper: Why is there no US Ambassador to France?

posted at 12:41 pm on February 12, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Last night, the White House conducted a state dinner for President François Hollande of France, complete with star-studded guest lists and, er, breathless coverage of the red carpet. Practically everyone was on hand, except the US Ambassador to France. Why? Because we don’t have one, as Jake Tapper points out, and haven’t had one for months:

In years and administrations past, the ambassador to France is a role that goes not to a career diplomat, but to the president’s biggest fundraisers.

The last one, Charles Rivkin, formally left the post on November 19, 2013. The position has remained open because the White House has had a tough time vetting these fat cats.

Take Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager and top Obama fundraiser whom the president picked for the post. He was suddenly out of the running in April, amid reports that he was connected to an alleged poker ring run by the Russian mob.

Among those who passed the vet, of course, are the President’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, who has never been to Argentina, and others with similar qualifications.

It’s a great takedown of the recent spate of diplomatic embarrassments on the appointment end at the White House for the State Department. Besides our new Ambassador to Argentina — who also doesn’t speak the language — we’ve also had an appointee display utter ignorance of the form and composition of the government to which he’d represent the US, and another who claimed ignorance of one of the most strategic complications with a nation that might be our most critical foreign-policy point for the next generation or more.

This is what happens when we prioritize fundraising over expert diplomacy. It’s not a new problem, but it’s getting a lot worse in this administration, and it’s going to result in very bad outcomes. It certainly insults our host countries when we send the ignorant out as our top representatives while they usually send professionals to represent themselves in the US. What does it say about American politics that half of our Ambassadors more or less buy these sinecures? Nothing good, especially abroad.

However, since we’re on the subject, I noticed last week that the post of Ambassador to Ireland remains open. Now, I realize that my experience may be disqualifying, since (a) I’ve actually been to the country, (b) speak the official language of Gaeilge (although I’m very rusty at it now), and (c) have read the State Department brief on the strategic interests in the US-Eire relationship. However, while I wouldn’t be so crass as to promise donations for an appointment, I can say that it would make me a lot more amenable to those e-mails from OFA that flood my inbox asking for a $3 contribution on behalf of President Obama’s agenda. I might even skip a Jimmy John’s to fund that request.

Feel free to promote my efforts on Twitter with the #Morrissey4Ireland hashtag. And if that one doesn’t work out, I’d settle for Liechtenstein, for which I’m at least as qualified as Noah Mamet.

Addendum: For that matter, I used to speak French too, so the post to France is an option, but my French is even rustier than my Irish. My only time in France was a few hours at the Charles de Gaulle Airport last November on my way to Jordan, which … still makes me more qualified than Mamet.

Update: Jeffrey Goldberg wonders just how much it costs to buy a post to Hungary — and notes that John McCain threw one of his colleagues under the bus while touring the country:

When a reporter, early in the press conference, asked McCain about Bell, a devilish smile played across his face.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said, “to have with us today the chairman of the committee that holds the hearings that these nominees come before, and that is Senator Murphy, and he is very knowledgeable about these issues.”

Three things then happened. First, most everyone at the press conference laughed. Second, one of the people who didn’t laugh, the aforementioned Senator Chris Murphy, a freshman Democrat from Connecticut, approached the podium as if it were covered in rat poison. Third, McCain winked — not at all subtly — at the three American journalists sitting in the front row.

McCain had set up a test for Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on European Affairs. Would the Connecticut Senator tell the truth? Would he skirt the truth? Or would he defend the fiction that Bell was a qualified nominee?

You can probably guess the answer, but I won’t spoil the surprise.


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Why is there no US Ambassador to France?

The Obama Administration is having a hard time finding a Liberal who hasn’t been to France.

portlandon on February 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM

Why do we even need one???…

PatriotRider on February 12, 2014 at 12:44 PM

No one has yet met the reserve price in the Auction?

ConstantineXI on February 12, 2014 at 12:45 PM

The Obama Administration is having a hard time finding a Liberal who hasn’t been to France.

portlandon on February 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM

And the corollary, he can’t find a conservative who WANTS to go to France! (not that he’d ever appoint a conservative).

ConstantineXI on February 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

I think he should nominate his bud Alex de Tocqueville. Yes, I’m beating this like a rented mule because it is funny and depressing.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Tapper: Why is there no US Ambassador to France?

Do they need someone else to surrender to?

DinaRehn on February 12, 2014 at 12:49 PM

What does it say about American politics that half of our Ambassadors more or less buy these sinecures?

It’s way past time we put an end to ‘political appointees’ period. But that will never happen as long as politicians need to suck at someone’s teat.

GarandFan on February 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Take Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager and top Obama fundraiser whom the president picked for the post. He was suddenly out of the running in April, amid reports that he was connected to an alleged poker ring run by the Russian mob.

I would imagine that is a plus rather than a negative with the filthy animals in charge of the Senate.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

I think he should nominate his bud Alex de Tocqueville. Yes, I’m beating this like a rented mule because it is funny and depressing.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Since your brought him up:

”The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money”. Alexis de Tocqueville

DinaRehn on February 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Since Barack Obama seems so insistent on following the economic policies already implemented by France, do we really need an ambassador?

I’m actually surprised that Teresa Kerry hasn’t been nominated…we know that Obama can’t nominate George Soros, that insider trading conviction in France after all…..

Athos on February 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM

The position has remained open because the White House has had a tough time vetting these fat cats.

Translation, the bidding process is still open.

rbj on February 12, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Take Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager and top Obama fundraiser whom the president picked for the post. He was suddenly out of the running in April, amid reports that he was connected to an alleged poker ring run by the Russian mob.

I would imagine that is a plus rather than a negative with the filthy animals in charge of the Senate.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

He’s probably in the running to be the next Ambassador to Russia…

Athos on February 12, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Tapper: Why is there no US Ambassador to France?

Jay Carney: It’s because of the do-nothing Republican Congress.

Athos on February 12, 2014 at 12:56 PM

DinaRehn on February 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

I think we have achieve mission accomplished status.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 12:59 PM

How much does it cost..?

d1carter on February 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM

…how much?

KOOLAID2 on February 12, 2014 at 1:01 PM

McDonalds, since they make great French Fries….

albill on February 12, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Because obama hasn’t found one yet who speaks Austrian, duh!!!

Schadenfreude on February 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Why is there no US Ambassador to France?

Nobody wants to go? I took a semester of French in college. I’m willing.

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

I think he should nominate his bud Alex de Tocqueville. Yes, I’m beating this like a rented mule because it is funny and depressing.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

It’s called a running joke. The administration is providing a lot of those.

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Surely Kerry didn’t go by himself when he went to meet the VC. One of his Buds surely could qualify.

Sergeant Major on February 12, 2014 at 1:13 PM

The job is probably being held open for the person who contributes the most to the Democratic Party this year.

oldennis on February 12, 2014 at 1:13 PM

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

That is awesome, now how big a check can The Won expect from you? Just kidding.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

How about Beyoncé? Her name is kinda French.

Pork-Chop on February 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

By the way kids, none of this stuff is done without State Department involvement. These results are reflective of the top-knotch professional organization that Killary left behind as her legacy. Remember that when some HA troll claims that Killary is qualifed for the Presidency because she was SecState.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

We have Marie Antoniette here, what else do we need?

http://news.yahoo.com/first-lady-39-state-dinner-gown-carolina-herrera-005438999.html

We’re all good with the Frenchies.

PappyD61 on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:12 PM

I’d like to see it run long and prosper, along with anything else that shows this guy as a dumbazz.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

It’s just a security issue.

President Obama wants to make sure that there are no YouTube videos critical of France. Last thing we need is another dead ambassador at the hands of a spontaneous gathering of movie critics.

malclave on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Who cares about France. They are a loser socialist nation being overrun by “the youth”.

Majority of France will be bowing towards Mecca in a generation.

Pablo Honey on February 12, 2014 at 1:16 PM

I speak French, I have been to France, I love French food, I love French wine. I am a conservative but I can be persuaded…

ojfltx on February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

That is awesome, now how big a check can The Won expect from you? Just kidding.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

I don’t have any money but I can be charming and I like cheese.

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:19 PM

I speak French, I have been to France, I love French food, I love French wine.

ojfltx on February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

You’ve been there AND you speak the language?

You’re obviously unqualified.

bigmacdaddy on February 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM

I’d like to see it run long and prosper, along with anything else that shows this guy as a dumbazz.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

I needed a laugh. They say it’s good for your health.

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM

It’s just a security issue.

President Obama wants to make sure that there are no YouTube videos critical of France. Last thing we need is another dead ambassador at the hands of a spontaneous gathering of movie critics.

malclave on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Now that’s first-class snark LOL….love it!

Duane

Gustavus on February 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM

President Obama wants to make sure that there are no YouTube videos critical of France. Last thing we need is another dead ambassador at the hands of a spontaneous gathering of movie critics.

malclave on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Hilarious

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:24 PM

I speak French, I have been to France, I love French food, I love French wine. I am a conservative but I can be persuaded…

ojfltx on February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Of course you can be persuaded- why do you think the French drink all that wine? ;0

Frankly, France does nothing for me (a bunch of rude people) but good luck with your campaign.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 1:25 PM

crankyoldlady on February 12, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Nope, that’s not going to work. You must have money. Lots of it.

Cindy Munford on February 12, 2014 at 1:26 PM

It’s just a security issue.

President Obama wants to make sure that there are no YouTube videos critical of France. Last thing we need is another dead ambassador at the hands of a spontaneous gathering of movie critics.

malclave on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

+1,000,000,000

Mr. D on February 12, 2014 at 1:34 PM

None of the Obama cronies have kicked in enough to buy the position yet. i am sure Barrak and the Mooch are blackmailing the money.

John21 on February 12, 2014 at 1:36 PM

I speak French, I have been to France, I love French food, I love French wine. I am a conservative but I can be persuaded…

ojfltx on February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

Nope. No good – disqualified.
We couldn’t possibly have an ambassador who speaks the language, has actually been to the country, and loves their food and wine.
The ONLY qualification to be considered is how much you donated to the messiah.

dentarthurdent on February 12, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 1:25 PM

I lived in France for two years and found them far more hospitable than the English.

celtic warrior on February 12, 2014 at 1:48 PM

The ONLY qualification to be considered is how much you donated to the messiah.

dentarthurdent on February 12, 2014 at 1:42 PM

How much YOU donated isn’t enough to get you an ambassadorship to one of the “stan” countries. You only get to Paris by raising gobs of money from a bunch of other people.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 1:49 PM

I lived in France for two years and found them far more hospitable than the English.

celtic warrior on February 12, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Where you were probably makes a difference. In both the UK and France.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 1:50 PM

I speak French, I have been to France, I love French food, I love French wine. I am a conservative but I can be persuaded…

ojfltx on February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

I’ll see you all of that, and raise you a very long string of French cars. :p

BillH on February 12, 2014 at 1:51 PM

I might even skip a Jimmy John’s to fund that request.

You take that back, Edward Morrissey!

blammm on February 12, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Everyone knows this position is being in held for Mary Landrieu – because they know her GOP opponent here in LA will mop the floor with her face in November.

HondaV65 on February 12, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Where you were probably makes a difference. In both the UK and France.

Happy Nomad on February 12, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Pretty much. I got along OK in Paris, but it was out in the smaller towns and villages where people were an almost-Midwest kind of friendly and helpful.

BillH on February 12, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Quick, someone set up an auction on Amazon for the Ambassador to France.

Bigbullets on February 12, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Pretty much. I got along OK in Paris, but it was out in the smaller towns and villages where people were an almost-Midwest kind of friendly and helpful.

BillH on February 12, 2014 at 1:56 PM

I’ve heard that before from others. Get away from the places with high tourist counts and the people are quite nice and helpful – as long as you don’t act like an ugly tourist (of any nationality).

Most anywhere really – get away from the tourist areas and make even a marginal attempt to speak their language and the locals will (mostly) be good to you.

dentarthurdent on February 12, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Everyone knows this position is being in held for Mary Landrieu – because they know her GOP opponent here in LA will mop the floor with her face in November.

HondaV65 on February 12, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Besides, she has a French last name…..

dentarthurdent on February 12, 2014 at 2:18 PM

How awesome would it be to have Jay-Z for French ambassador?

OxyCon on February 12, 2014 at 2:23 PM

I speak French, I have been to France, I love French food, I love French wine.

ojfltx on February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

You’ve been there AND you speak the language?

You’re obviously unqualified.

bigmacdaddy on February 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM

There is precedent; Arab countries object to ambassadors that speak Arabic, because it means the ambassador can understand their doubletalk and read the local papers.

slickwillie2001 on February 12, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Why bother assigning an ambassador to France when, by the end of The One’s reign, we’ll be just like them.

vnvet on February 12, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Obama should nominate Mary Landrieu, so that she can represent France instead of Louisiana.

Instead, he will nominate a campaign donor who can get all oui-oui’ed up.

Meanwhile, Ben Franklin (our first Ambassador to France) is turning over in his grave, and Chris Stevens is unavailable for comment.

Steve Z on February 12, 2014 at 3:03 PM

I speak French, and I’m willing to resist mocking them to their face for at least a couple of years. Pick me!

Oh wait, I have no wealth, no connections, didn’t bundle any donations, and think that the President is an idiot. I guess I’m out of the running.

damage done on February 12, 2014 at 3:49 PM

I guess I’m out of the running.

damage done on February 12, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Yeah. Your qualifications lack a certain…je ne sais quoi…panache?…savoir faire?

Solaratov on February 12, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Isn’t having a French Secretary of State enough? He’s even perfidious.

Knott Buyinit on February 12, 2014 at 6:19 PM

Most anywhere really – get away from the tourist areas and make even a marginal attempt to speak their language and the locals will (mostly) be good to you.

dentarthurdent on February 12, 2014 at 2:17 PM

I even managed to get on well with the hard-boiled hotelier I stayed with in Paris. I tried (and failed on most occasions!) to attempt French. I got him to teach me a few words. By the end of my week there
we had become fast friends.

I was soooooooooooooo easy to spot as the ugly American…

BillH on February 12, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Since the NSA is actively snooping on these governments, we no longer need “diplomats” pretending to be friendly to our so-called allies.

I guess that’s what makes us so respected in the world. Smart power, indeed.

virgo on February 13, 2014 at 2:42 AM