WaPo vs WaPo on ambassadorial appointments

posted at 2:41 pm on February 14, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

How can we tell that the embarrassment of Barack Obama’s sale of diplomatic appointments has gotten too big to ignore? One indication would be a major media outlet trying to slough it off by calling it business as usual. Another signal could be a major media outlet paying attention to it and demanding action.

Today, we get both … at the Washington Post. First, Aaron Blake concedes that the nominees have been unqualified embarrassments of late, but argues that there’s nothing new about nominating campaign donors to these positions:

For decades, political allies — fundraisers, in particular — have often gotten what are known as “plum” ambassador posts. These are often sunny or touristy destinations where U.S. diplomacy is hardly a pressing issue.

That’s why, according to the American Foreign Service Association, the last 19 ambassadors to Ireland have all been political appointees, but the last 21 ambassadors to Lebanon have all been career foreign service officers. Ireland is a desirable post; Lebanon, not so much.

And while Obama is one of the bigger offenders in this regard, he still trails slightly behind two Republican presidents when it comes to the percentage of his ambassador picks who are political appointees, as opposed to those who have spent their careers in the foreign service — Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

While political appointees comprised about 38 percent of Reagan’s and Ford’s ambassadors, they’ve been about 37 percent of Obama’s, according to AFSA.

Blake provides a handy chart to bolster his case:

wapo-ambassador-chart

First, as the chart actually demonstrates, this isn’t business as usual, but a big jump in the Obama era. Second, didn’t Obama win office by promising to change the culture of Washington and end the idea that government was for sale? That was the entire point of “Hope and Change,” was it not? Obama has since argued that he didn’t understand just how entrenched that culture is in Washington DC and how difficult it is to change it — an odd claim, since he’d been a Senator for four years by the time of his inauguration — but this is an area in which Obama has complete authority. These are his appointments, not Congress’, and he’s basically making them a paid sinecure.

For the next indicator, here is the editorial board at the Post disagreeing rather emphatically with Blake’s argument:

All presidents appoint some ambassadors who are not professional diplomats. Most have been harmless; a few have been stellar. Mr. Obama, however, has considerably stretched the boundaries of previous presidential records, both in quantity and in apparent disregard for quality. The president promised in 2009 to increase professional appointments, and the State Department said last Friday that it aims for a 70-30 split between career and political ambassadors. Yet, so far in his second term,53 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointments have been political, according to the American Foreign Service Association. A third have been fundraisers for his campaigns.

The bundlers are going not just to London, Brussels and Vienna, where their roles may be largely decorative, but also to countries where relations with the United States are troubled. In addition to Mr. Mamet, Mr. Obama is dispatching fundraiser and soap-opera producer Colleen Bradley Bell to Hungary, a NATO country whose government has a disturbing record of undermining democratic institutions. At her confirmation hearing, Ms. Bell was unable to spell out U.S. interests in Budapest other than “to promote business opportunities, increase trade.”

Mr. Obama’s new ambassador to Norway, George Tsunis, raised $1.3 million for the Democratic Party in 2012 but didn’t know at the time of his hearing last month that Norway has a king but not a president.

Ambassadorial appointments for small allies such as Norway or tough partners including Hungary and Argentina matter because their governments rarely receive the attention of high-level officials in Washington and yet require skilled diplomacy. It’s no wonder that Argentina, the third-largest economy in Latin America but a perennial trouble spot, was tended by career diplomats under the four presidents who preceded Mr. Obama. His use of the Buenos Aires embassy and so many others as political plums signals a disregard for U.S. foreign interests.

Plus, let’s not forget a couple of other Barack Obama campaign pledges from 2008. He repeatedly blasted the foreign policies of George W. Bush as arrogant and ignorant, pledging to restore American standing with its allies and implementing foreign policies that exuded “smart power.” How does one square “smart power” with demonstrably ignorant and incompetent ambassadors? How arrogant does it look to have our friends send professional diplomats to represent them here, while we send donors with no understanding of their nations in return? Did any of Bush’s or Reagan’s appointees demonstrate the level of ignorance in the confirmation hearings as did George Tsunis and Colleen Bell?

Smart power, indeed.

Addendum: I noticed that hardly any of you promoted me as the new ambassador to Ireland on Twitter, by using the #Morrissey4Ireland hashtag. I’ll even up my offer to $5 for OFA for the appointment, despite my obvious disqualifications of having been in Ireland, knowing its form of government, and speaking its language. I’m giving up my Friday Jimmy Johns order just in case the call comes.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Bishop?

Franklin100 on February 14, 2014 at 2:42 PM

This noob’s Bishop monkey is off his back.

Breaking out the Pappy Van Winkle 23 tonight.

Franklin100 on February 14, 2014 at 2:45 PM

He is just lining up free lodging for Mooch and the girls once his sorry arse is escorted out of 1600 Penn…

hillsoftx on February 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

I bet that Kennedy bimbo sure is gland she made it in before anyone started paying attention.

BigWyo on February 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

The chart is garbage. All political appointees are not created equal. Obama’s nominees know jack squat about their assignments. I don’t remember Dubya having nominees that readily admit that they aren’t experts on their mission country.

blammm on February 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

WaPo has an update on this story at the very bottom:

Update 12:32 p.m.: Some conservatives on Twitter raise a very valid point — that Obama, shortly after taking office, vowed to “have civil servants, wherever possible, serve in these posts.” Certainly, that lends even more credence to the GOP’s case that Obama’s use of political ambassador appointees are particularly egregious.

Using O’bama’s own words against him won’t make his Cultists happy, WaPo.

Del Dolemonte on February 14, 2014 at 2:48 PM

I bet that Kennedy bimbo sure is glad she made it in before anyone started paying attention.

BigWyo on February 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

I hear Caroline tells Japan’s premier how much she loves General Tso’s Chicken and Ming pottery at every opportunity.

viking01 on February 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

WaPo comments thread is barely there.

nonpartisan first:

This column is why the right is always criticizing whatever Pres. Obama does. If the media would stop acknowledging the ignorance/hate/lies then they would shut up or at least just have their normal audience.

The media is so lazy they repeat nonsense and try to pretend they are doing analysis. Sloppy and lazy ‘journalism’.

And the race-baiting soon comes in:

Another non-issue that has become an issue because Obama is president.

And then of course it’s time for the “B” Word:

Anything President Obama appoints will be a huge improvement over Bush..

(Of course, this idiot is trying to hijack an almost nonexistent comment thread, because the article is solely about O’bama’s choices.)

Bush’s choice of Roberts as Chief justices takes the cake with his failure to administer the Oath of Office correctly, which required it be done a second time to be sure everything was legal.

(But he upheld your Cult Leader’s Health Care Act!)

“IT BURNS!

Del Dolemonte on February 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Second, didn’t Obama win office by promising to change the culture of Washington and end the idea that government was for sale?

That was before he realized he could raise 11elventy bazillion dollars campaigning. Remember his pledge on public financing for his first campaign? Yeah the one he broke, just like every other pledge, promise or guarantee that he has broken.

Johnnyreb on February 14, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Go ahead and order Jimmie Johns ED. Just received word that Beyonce is going to take the job.

No Chop Charlie on February 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

It’s a constant shame that the US doesn’t send eclectic and qualified people, who at a minimum speak the language of the land they’ll serve in, learned in the arts of foreign policy, the world and such…only friends of this/that preezie…

Then they know nothing, learn nothing about the world they live in, for a time, and are laughed at as naive dummy Amis.

It’s been an eternal embarrassment.

Still, obama surpasses the prize on idiocy, here too.

Schadenfreude on February 14, 2014 at 3:02 PM

One think is fer sure, though.

obama’s ambassador to Austria speaks Austrian and his ambassador to Belgium speaks Belgian.

Schadenfreude on February 14, 2014 at 3:04 PM

One think thing is fer sure.

Schadenfreude on February 14, 2014 at 3:04 PM

If Morrissey can’t go to Ireland, Ireland will come to Morrissey!!

Deano1952 on February 14, 2014 at 3:05 PM

The Irish s/b so lucky.

These things I warmly wish to you,
Someone to love
Some work to do
A bit of sun, a bit of cheer
And a guardian angel always near.

——————-

There was an old person of Down,
Whose face was adorned with a frown;
When he opened the door, for one minute or more,
He alarmed all the people of Down.

Schadenfreude on February 14, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Lol Ed…. don’t give up the dream
:)

cmsinaz on February 14, 2014 at 3:09 PM

This noob’s Bishop monkey is off his back.

Breaking out the Pappy Van Winkle 23 tonight.

Franklin100 on February 14, 2014 at 2:45 PM

You try too hard. It’s more the luck of the Irish :)

Schadenfreude on February 14, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Way to go f100

cmsinaz on February 14, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Expiration dates my friends

cmsinaz on February 14, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Addendum: I noticed that hardly any of you promoted me as the new ambassador to Ireland on Twitter, by using the #Morrissey4Ireland hashtag. I’ll even up my offer to $5 for OFA for the appointment, despite my obvious disqualifications of having been in Ireland, knowing its form of government, and speaking its language. I’m giving up my Friday Jimmy Johns order just in case the call comes.

I fundamentally can’t support somebody who would give up Jimmy Johns to donate to OFA.

But while on the subject, let me throw my name in the ring should Scotland suddenly need an Ambassador after the 2014 referendum. I know it is early but I can assure you that, despite having been there several times; I’m fully qualified. I clearly don’t speak the language- I can’t understand a word of what they say. ;0

Happy Nomad on February 14, 2014 at 3:14 PM

I bet that Kennedy bimbo sure is glad she made it in before anyone started paying attention.

BigWyo on February 14, 2014 at 2:47 PM

I hear Caroline tells Japan’s premier how much she loves General Tso’s Chicken and Ming pottery at every opportunity.

viking01 on February 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

It goes something like this:
Kennedy: You know I you know really you know love that Generals you know Tso’s chicken you know and you know Ming pottery you know.

Buttercup on February 14, 2014 at 3:14 PM

There is absolutely nothing wrong with political appointments of highly accomplished and successful individuals who have achieved much in their fields and who have demonstrated abilities as communicators and diplomats.

Hollywood types? Senior business executives? Even political fund-raisers?

Absolutely.

But is there some reason you cannot also pick people who are QUALIFIED to be ambassadors?

It ain’t that hard. I’m sure the Teleprompter-in-Chief has high falutin’ friends and donors who also happen to be smart, and capable, and have some knowledge of the countries in question.

Go find them.

Sheesh.

The problem isn’t political appointments. It’s appointing political hacks.

Here’s an idea: if you want to award a donor, tell him a year or two ahead of time, tell him to go learn the language and the country and the issues – THEN nominate him.

Is this hard?

Professor Blather on February 14, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Hey, the guy’s got a pen and a phone: What’s he need a bunch of ambassadors, and ‘professional diplomats’, ‘n stuff for?
Barack Obama has been to nearly every one of our 57 states, and is always the Smartest Guy In The Room(TM) (so long as it’s a small room, and full of progressives). Shouldn’t that be more than sufficient?

Honestly, you’d think that you were commenting about some mere hack elected official, instead of Dear Leader, Whose Only Opponents Are Intolerant Racists(TM).

orangemtl on February 14, 2014 at 3:21 PM

- I can’t understand a word of what they say. ;0

Happy Nomad on February 14, 2014 at 3:14 PM

That’s alright I’ll be your translator. My ancestors came from there many centuries ago

crankyoldlady on February 14, 2014 at 3:28 PM

It goes something like this:
Kennedy: You know I you know really you know love that Generals you know Tso’s chicken you know and you know Ming pottery you know.

“Dude, that General Tso’s Chicken is like, The Bomb—oh wait, you guys are like, kinda funny about The Bomb, amirite? You had a war or something, yeah? My Dad was in a movie about it, I think.”

orangemtl on February 14, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Hey, the guy’s got a pen and a phone: What’s he need a bunch of ambassadors, and ‘professional diplomats’, ‘n stuff for?

orangemtl on February 14, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Good question. The rat-eared wonder and those around him think they are smarter than anybody else. They wouldn’t listen to advice even if it were offered.

Face it. Political fundraisers and brain-dead morons like Carolyn Kennedy are the new normal for ambassadors.

Happy Nomad on February 14, 2014 at 3:29 PM

There is absolutely nothing wrong with political appointments of highly accomplished and successful individuals who have achieved much in their fields and who have demonstrated abilities as communicators and diplomats

Unfortunately they don’t know anybody like that.

crankyoldlady on February 14, 2014 at 3:32 PM

That’s alright I’ll be your translator. My ancestors came from there many centuries ago

crankyoldlady on February 14, 2014 at 3:28 PM

So did mine!

Which makes all the referendum debate interesting. My guess is that Scotland will opt to stay in the UK though it won’t be by a large margin. Nevertheless, the pressure is on for them to do so- including the announcement yesterday that Scotland wouldn’t be allowed to continue using the Pound.

Happy Nomad on February 14, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Which makes all the referendum debate interesting. My guess is that Scotland will opt to stay in the UK though it won’t be by a large margin. Nevertheless, the pressure is on for them to do so- including the announcement yesterday that Scotland wouldn’t be allowed to continue using the Pound.

Happy Nomad on February 14, 2014 at 3:34 PM

I suppose that’s a problem but I don’t uderstand enough about it. They all use the euro. I wonder if England would actually hold to that.

Actually my ancestors went to Ireland before they came here. They were Scotch-Irish.

crankyoldlady on February 14, 2014 at 3:38 PM

I’m a little suspicious of the Wash Post getting hot and bothered by a relatively minor thing that’s been going on since the beginning of time. Distraction from more important things perhaps.

crankyoldlady on February 14, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Actually my ancestors went to Ireland before they came here. They were Scotch-Irish.

crankyoldlady on February 14, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Yeah, mine too. Typical migration pattern. Scotland to Northern Ireland to Philadelphia and down the Shenendoah Valley to settle on the frontier in the 1740s. In what is now Southern Virginia.

Happy Nomad on February 14, 2014 at 3:47 PM

and in apparent disregard for quality.

I don’t mind paying off a bundler, just make them competent. And send them to Luxembourg or Bermuda.

His use of the Buenos Aires embassy and so many others as political plums signals a disregard for U.S. foreign interests.

Unlike every single other part of his foreign policy.
/sarc

rbj on February 14, 2014 at 3:48 PM

Regarding what is a political appointment, I just gotta pull this one back up:

Really? All of Bush’s appointments to the China post were political rather than career professional.
lexhamfox on January 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Really? Bush appointed ONE guy, Clark Randt, as Ambassador to China, and he stayed there for Bush’s entire 2 terms.
And you think this background is purely political:
From 1968 to 1972, Randt served in the United States Air Force Security Service, and in 1974 he was the China representative of the National Council for United States-China Trade.
Randt was a resident of Beijing from 1982 through 1984 where he served as First Secretary and Commercial Attache at the U.S. Embassy. He then lived in Hong Kong for 18 years, most recently as a partner with the international law firm of Shearman & Sterling where he headed the firm’s China practice. Randt was Governor and First Vice President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. He is a member of the New York and Hong Kong bars and is a recognized expert on Chinese law. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Randt was nominated U.S. Ambassador to China by President George W. Bush on April 30, 2001 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 11, 2001. He was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to China on July 17, 2001 and arrived in Beijing on July 23.
dentarthurdent on January 28, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Yes, it was a political rather than a career diplomat appointment.
lexhamfox on January 28, 2014 at 3:12 PM

So totally irrelevant that the guy Bush picked had decades of real world experience in and with China, a noted expert in their laws/legal system, and was fluent in their primary language?
Okaaaaaayyyyy – gotcha – if that’s what you consider a “political appointment”…..
dentarthurdent on January 28, 2014 at 3:42 PM

dentarthurdent on February 14, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Why are percentages the most relevant number? Does every President appoint 100% new ambassadors? I’d think raw numbers would be a better indicator. But that’s just me.

jdp629 on February 14, 2014 at 4:02 PM

I hear Caroline tells Japan’s premier how much she loves General Tso’s Chicken and Ming pottery at every opportunity.

viking01 on February 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

She has promised them that she will never support internment of Japanese citizens, that she loves things ‘made in Japan’, and that her mother had a ‘funny little doll’ with scrunched-up eyes that she is fairly certain came from Japan.

maryo on February 14, 2014 at 4:08 PM

dentarthurdent on February 14, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Bush (aka – chimpymchitlerbush) made an intelligent political appointment. Barky makes stupnit political appointments. Once can also make intelligent, career diplomat appointments as well as Barky stupnit ones. It just depends on how you roll. It’s pretty clear to see how Preznint Barky rolls.

Simonsez on February 14, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Barack should nominate Biden to be ambassador to Delaware.

Just to see Joe tripping all over himself with “I’m honored to assume this position.”

The confirmation hearing would be a hoot!!

BigWyo on February 14, 2014 at 4:43 PM

And while we’re (I’m) on the subject of Vice Presidents…

Al Gore, much like Jimmy Carter, has to be awfully happy that Joe Biden came along..

But then again, Biden is just an imbecile, Gore is a money grubbing a$$hole…

BigWyo on February 14, 2014 at 4:46 PM

dentarthurdent on February 14, 2014 at 3:50 PM

That’s definitely one for the troll files.

slickwillie2001 on February 14, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Ed, you’ll have to fight me for the Ambassadorship to Ireland. I’m Irish but never been there, which makes me far better qualified than you.

HellCat on February 14, 2014 at 5:38 PM

Second, didn’t Obama win office by promising to change the culture of Washington and end the idea that government was for sale?

Is it a surprise that he lies? I’m thinking that he lies and doesn’t seem to understand that we live in the time of videos/you tube etc – but just maybe his voters are too stupid to look anything up!

BTW Schadenfreude on February 14, 2014 at 3:07 PM – I hope it’s ok if I tweet your poem?

Bambi on February 14, 2014 at 6:11 PM

At this point what difference does it make if we are represented aboard by idiots? The whole world knows what idiots sent them, and what idiots voted for those idiots that sent the idiots.

Ray Van Dune on February 14, 2014 at 6:37 PM

Ya, sure, all Presidents nominate big fund raisers to ambassadorial posts. But in the past those fund raisers were smart money. It takes a special kind of stupid to raise money for Obama – not once, but twice! – so it’s this special kind of stupid who are getting Obama’s nominations.

ss396 on February 15, 2014 at 1:26 AM