As Olivier Knox reported yesterday, the American Foreign Service Association didn’t put it quite so bluntly, but they’re not terribly pleased with the ominously incompetent direction the White House is taking. Their six-page report may be couched in diplo-speak, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines here:
AFSA recommends the following guidelines be applied to all COM nominees, career (regardless of agency) and non-career, in a fair and impartial manner. We have, therefore, developed the four general guidelines described below to be used in the assessment of all future COM nominees.
- Leadership, Character and Proven Interpersonal Skills: The nominee has demonstrated the interpersonal skills necessary to represent the United States, including utmost integrity, honesty, moral courage, fairness, empathy, an appropriate measure of humility, awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses, overall judgment and decisiveness, and the ability to inspire, as well as a proven ability to be effective in taking on new challenges. A demonstrated understanding and mastery of working in a complex environment where the objectives of multiple and sometimes competing organizations must be balanced, and a demonstrated ability to prioritize wisely, especially concerning issues of one’s staff and facilities. A key skill is the ability to listen in order to better understand the host country’s perspectives, as well as the mission staff ’s views and concerns. These skills can be demonstrated through leadership and management of government organizations, private sector companies, or non-governmental and private volunteer organizations.
- Understanding of High Level Policy and Operations, and of Key U.S. Interests and Values in the Country or Organization of Prospective Assignment: The nominee possesses the knowledge and capacity to lead the operations of a diplomatic mission effectively; to participate constructively in the formulation of policy and implement policy in a creative manner that yields positive results where possible; and to communicate persuasively with government stakeholders (White House, State Department, other executive agencies and Congress), host nation officials, political leaders and civil society. He or she demonstrates the capacity to negotiate, and has the proven ability to take on various challenges, including working with U.S. and foreign business communities and other nongovernmental interests, and providing services to U.S. citizens.
- Management: The nominee has relevant management experience. He or she possesses a commitment to team building, innovation, problem-solving, strategic planning, mentoring and career development. He or she also possesses experience in setting goals and visions, managing change, and allocating resources. He or she has the capacity to work well with a deputy and other members of a team, and to delegate effectively.
- Understanding of Host Country and International Affairs, Ability to Promote and Advance U.S. Interests: The nominee has experience in or with the host country or other suitable international experience, and has knowledge of the host country culture and language or of other foreign cultures or languages. He or she has the ability to manage relations between the U.S. and the country or organization of assignment in order to advance U.S. interests, including the interests of U.S. commercial firms as well as individual U.S. citizens and nationals. The nominee skillfully interacts with different audiences – both public and private.
Note some of the language in this missive in terms of recent appointments: “The nominee has experience in or with the host country or other suitable international experience…” “Understanding of host country …” “Understanding of high-level policy and operations …” In other words, the appointees have to prepare well to represent the US to host countries, and not just act like rich-but-clueless tourists with an outdated book of helpful phrases. Unfortunately, we’ve seen nothing but the latter in recent appointments.
To do that, though, the President has to take these appointments seriously — and as Olivier notes, that’s probably the big hurdle:
The Southern California finance co-chairwoman of Obama’s 2008 campaign, Nicole Avant, went missing from the embassy in the Bahamas for 276 days between September 2009 and November 2011, according to a January 2012 State Department inspector general’s report. Her absences included 102 “personal leave” days, and 77 business travel days to the United States, just 23 of those on official orders.
At an April 2011 Democratic National Committee fundraiser, Obama gave Avant a shout-out.
“And our ambassador to the Bahamas, Nicole Avant, is in the house,” he said, to laughter from the crowd. “It’s a nice gig, isn’t it?”
A nice gig? If you can get it.
If you can write a check with at least four zeroes ahead of the decimal point, you probably can get it.