This time, the selection of a novice to a diplomatic post can’t be blamed on campaign-donor cronyism. Senator Max Baucus was supposed to be an easy confirmation ride for the Obama administration, thanks to the clubby Senate atmosphere. Unfortunately for Barack Obama, Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked what should have been a fairly easy question to answer for anyone who has studied our relationship with China in any depth. Baucus ended up admitting that he’s, er … not that guy:
Politico’s Alex Burns wonders:
Wouldn't the air defense zone issue be, like, the first thing you study up on as a nominee for ambassador to China? https://t.co/ubcIGXaK1h
— Alex Burns (@aburnspolitico) January 28, 2014
Well, sure. But then again, we’d assume that the first thing a nominee for ambassador to Norway would do would be to study its form of government and the current makeup of its governing coalition, too. This is the second embarrassment for the White House on its diplomatic assignments in the last four days.
Norway is an important friend to the US, but the posting to China touches on issues of vast importance for the US in terms of trade, national security, and budget deficits. For instance, the US is currently fighting attempts from Beijing to force American journalists out of the country to keep them from reporting on these issues in depth. To say that this is an important diplomatic posting with a deep need for expertise in the issues involved is to offer a dramatic understatement. Yet the White House has nominated someone who apparently knows little about those issues. Why? Democrats wanted Gov. Steve Bullock to appoint a Democrat in Baucus’ place in order to get a leg up in the 2014 midterm race in what was going to be an open seat. Baucus got the appointment to get him out of the Senate now, rather than at the end of the session.
We’re used to rank politicization of ambassadorial posts, but the last few days show a breathtaking disregard of American interests in the furtherance of partisan benefit.
Update: One possible explanation, via Twitchy:
But he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night MT @KevinMcLaughlin: Max Baucus, nominee for Amb. to China: I'm no real expert on China.
— Alex Coelho (@apcoelho) January 28, 2014
Update: Steve Bullock became governor of Montana
earlier this month last year after Brian Schweitzer’s term expired. I’ve corrected my post above. My apologies for the error errors.