We have previously discussed how President Obama continues to reward donors with ambassadorships, including some with little background or known talents for the jobs. I have long been a critic of this practice and I remain astonished that the American people allow it to continue. However, fat cat friends are often given trivial ambassadorships like the Vatican or smaller nations. It is still not a good practice but the damage is limited. Obama however have been handing out major posts to those who give him or the DNC millions in bundled dollars. This week the Senate confirmed two nominees to Argentina and Hungary that should outrage people who believe diplomacy should be left to diplomats and do not believe that such posts should be handed out as favors to wealthy friends. It is a national disgrace but we have become accustomed to the effective selling of these government offices. It certainly conveys a truly insulting message to these two countries that neither they nor their problems amount to much of a priority for the United States.
We previously discussed the controversial nomination of major donor Noah Mamet to the top post in Argentina despite the fact that he had never been in the country and does not speak Spanish. You may recall that Argentina is in the midst of serious economic and political upheaval and that a rift is growing between our two countries. It might be a good time to send a trained expert who can speak the language. President Obama sent a bundler instead.
Obama has also succeeded in his appointment of Colleen Bell, a former producer for the TV soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” to the top post in Hungary, a nation that is one of the most important spots in Eastern Europe. Hungary is drifting back into the Russian orbit and its leader has stripped away constitutional rights while embracing Vladimir Putin. The loss of Hungary is a serious threat in the balance of the region which is already reeling from the Ukrainian conflict and an arms build up. So President Obama is sending the former producer of “The Bold and the Beautfiul.”
Mamet was confirmed as ambassador to Argentina by a vote of 50-43. Bell was confirmed as ambassador to Hungary by a vote of 52-42.
More than 40 percent of Obama’s second-term picks for diplomatic posts have reportedly been political nominees. Yet, there is virtually no serious coverage in the mainstream media despite past disasters with donors made diplomats.
Ethical relativists of course shrug and just say that people are naive in objecting to such practices. However, this is in my view an easy test for any administrative committed to good government. Years ago, I was at a dinner with an extremely wealthy Democratic donor was talking about how easy it is to get one of these posts if you give enough money to the President’s campaign and how he passed the position to his wife who is delighted to now be called “Ambassador.”
In response to criticism by Senator McCain (particularly to giving away a post like Hungary to a donor), the White House responded that President Obama does not take such nominations “lightly.” No one of course would think that . . . each of these nominees gave at least $500,000 or more.
71 thoughts on “Bundling Diplomacy: Obama Places Two Fundraisers In Key Ambassadorships”
US diplomats cry foul as Obama donors take over top embassy jobs.
Issac, Ronald Reagan was my Governor for eight years and my President for eight years. I was blessed with sixteen years and proud for every one. Democrats like to demean President Reagan, but have never had one like him.
Seriously? I dislike the fact that for decades ambassadorships to non-problematic posts have been given to major campaign donors by all Presidents, but it seems that none of you posting here have the faintest clue about this. Shirley Temple was an ambassador. Not a special-title-sorta-abmassador-at-large, but THE US Ambassador to an actual nation. (Each embassy has a chargé d’affaires, the #2 post who is essentially always a career diplomat and is the “real” representative of the US in cases where the ambassador isn’t an actual diplomat.)
Professor Turley knows this full well and wrote, “despite past disasters with donors made diplomats. Ethical relativists of course shrug and just say that people are naive in objecting to such practices.” He knows full well that it is standard operating procedure to give ambassadorships to major donors by presidents of both parties, but he chose to not explicitly state so in his piece, which I think is a disservice to the discussion here.
I would like it if this issue came to a head and the practice ended. But the moaning and whingeing here about how terrible Obama is for doing this is preposterous. Because the Obama administration is no different than any of their predecessors, the discussion should be about the effects of and problems with the practice, not pretending like Obama invented it.
TomDArch – Shirley Temple was well thought of as an ambassador.
rafflaw: “The real work in our foreign embassies is not done by politically appointed ambassadors, but by the experienced state department employees.”
Barkindog: “Has anyone kept an accurate record of say George W. Bush’s list of appointees to Ambassador jobs and Obama’s?”
Although he raises an FSO background or lack thereof as a supporting argument, I don’t believe Professor Turley’s main point is that political appointees are ipso facto unqualified to be competent ambassadors.
Rather, he emphasizes, one, appointees who are, two, donors “with little background or known talents for the jobs”, three, placed in particularly weighty ambassadorships.
The President can choose appointees who have not been career FSOs and yet are sufficiently competent and conscientious to capably manage a weighty ambassadorship. Indeed, the President can choose appointees who have not been career FSOs, are large donors and competent and conscientious enough to capably manage a weighty ambassadorship. In other words, whatever his or her path to the position, the bottom line is can the President’s man or woman do the job? Per Professor Turley’s framing, however, that standard does not appear to be the bottom line in President Obama’s process.
You can be certain someone is keeping track of everything prior administrations have done; how else are the grubers of the world supposed to determine right from wrong? Forget that whole constitution thingy; this is the 21st century and we are too sophisticated to be bogged down with quaint 18th century political theory. Maybe what we need is more cowbell. 😉
Has anyone kept an accurate record of say George W. Bush’s list of appointees to Ambassador jobs and Obama’s? Many of these nation states and pirate territories could use a rich guy or celebrity to jive them up. We need to close every embassy in every territory which is not safe. Then Boner could have his conference on Ben Gazi.
Then these are largely ceremonial positions and should be paid for what they are worth.
The real work in our foreign embassies is not done by politically appointed ambassadors, but by the experienced state department employees.
We American’s need to get off our couches and start speaking up. The waste of our government is a total corrupt disgrace. It’s not just the president that should be blamed, but the Senate who votes on these people and allows this fiasco to continue.
We need to stay on the tails of this upcoming Republican House and Senate, as well as the Democrats. Let’s voice our opinions, write editorials, and perhaps maybe, just maybe, we the people can once again take charge of our government.
That and gaming the system.
It is though an example where politicians place themselves above the common good of the people.
Ambassadorships have long been regarded by politicians of both parties as appropriate rewards for financial generosity. I see no prospects for change in that mentality. It is not only disrespectful to the field of diplomacy in general, however. It is also insulting and demeaning to the nations expected to accept dubious credentials.
This really should come as no surprise; this is the Peter Principle application of executive administration. The die was cast when they elected an unqualified man to the office of President and it continues with unqualified nominees for ANY of the subordinate offices.
When you base your votes on ‘Hope’ then you are bound to get incompetence and thus, ‘change’.
Yes Paul, you have a point there. Even though I do not agree with you on Snowden, but I do in this case.
Job Posting for Ambassadorship: Only prerequisite is to have raised $500,000 for Democratic Party. Not necessary to have visited the country where job opening exists or have ability to speak the language. No diplomatic experience necessary. On the job training will be provided.
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