American Foreign Service Association: Say, Shouldn't Obama's Diplomatic Nominees Have Some Kind of Qualifications?

Katie Pavlich

2/26/2014 12:00:00 PM - Katie Pavlich

The American Foreign Service Association is asking the Obama administration to "raise the bar" on qualifications for diplomatic nominees, which shouldn't be hard considering how low the bar has been set.

The union representing America's Foreign Service professionals has a novel idea -- diplomatic nominees should have international experience and probably know a thing or two about the host country where they're being assigned.

The recommendations were part of proposed diplomatic job qualifications put out Tuesday by the American Foreign Service Association, in a bid to increase pressure on the administration to raise the bar on the quality of its ambassadorial picks. The guidelines come after a string of rocky confirmation hearings for a few of President Obama's diplomatic nominees, and amid heightened scrutiny of the time-honored presidential practice of selecting political donors and friends for these high-profile posts.

"It is essential ... that ambassadors chosen to represent the president and lead our diplomatic missions possess the attributes, experience and skills to do so successfully," the group said in its report published Tuesday.

Although the White House won't confirm or deny whether big Obama campaign fundraisers are getting cushy diplomatic nominations, the evidence shows President Obama is paying his buddies back for their work to secure his re-election in 2012 (Obama also did the same after the 2008 election). At least three of President Obama's latest ambassador nominees either know nothing about the country they are going to be working with or they've never visited the country they'll be working with. A reminder of who Obama's buddies are:

Throughout the course of President Obama's tenure in the White House, we've seen major campaign donors coincidentally appointed to fill open ambassador seats, regardless of whether a donor has any knowledge or clue about the country they're being tapped to work with.

Take for example George James Tsunis, a big Obama campaign bundler appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway who knows nothing about Norway. American Foreign Service Association

Or how about Colleen Bell, who embarrassed herself during a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill after blowing basic questions about Hungary.

As Henri Barkey at the Washington Post relates, Bell - whose resume, aside from handling big wads of cash for Barack Obama's political campaign, includes producing TV soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" - couldn't answer basic questions about American strategic interests in Hungary, a NATO and EU member going through some troubling political crises at the moment.

Noah Mamet, who helped secure half a million dollars for Obama's re-election, has been tapped to be the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Mamet has never been to Argentina.


The requirement of knowing basic facts about a country before becoming an ambassador seems like a joke, but in these cases the bar needs to be raised to that simple level of qualification because the bar isn't even off the ground.

And no, this isn't the first time the Foreign Service has expressed frustration with Obama's political favors to friends through ambassadorships.

Despite promises to change how Washington works, Obama has actually perfected the game of giving political allies and donors key ambassadorships in countries like England, France, Japan, Spain, Finland, and Australia. And in the eyes of foreign service association, he’s become the worst abuser, putting political allies in 44 percent of the top 185 ambassadorial positions. By comparison, 30 percent of George W. Bush’s ambassadors were political appointees and 28 percent of Bill Clinton’s political allies and donors.

The American Foreign Service Association said in its new statement on ambassador appointments, “The appointment of non-career individuals, however accomplished in their own field, to lead America’s important diplomatic missions abroad should be exceptional and circumscribed, not the routine practice it has become over the last three decades. Over this period 85 percent of ambassadorial appointments to major European countries and Japan, and nearly 60 percent of appointments to a wider group of emerging global powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China, have been political.

Obama being worse than his predecessors when he promised he wouldn't be? Nobody is surprised and it's no wonder our foreign policy is such a disaster. President Obama wasn't qualified to be the President of the United States and still made it, twice, why would he think his diplomatic nominees should be held to any different standard?