Saturday, February 15, 2014

More Obama Incompetence

The Senate Must Stop Obama's Diplomatic Corruption

The Constitution provides that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors.” In other words, no ambassador can take up his or her post without first winning the approval of the Senate.

The corruption of the nomination of ambassadors under President Obama is now so bad that the Senate must act. No Senator from either party can in good conscience consent to appointing ambassadors who are ignorant and unqualified.

The decline of America’s representatives abroad takes place in a much larger context of the Obama administration.

President Obama first ran for his office with a foreign policy platform rooted, essentially, in himself. He assured Americans that his ascension to the presidency alone would transform the United States’ image abroad.

In a way, he was right. Although initially rewarded for his election with a Nobel Peace Prize, the President quickly found his naïveté thrown back in his face.

To his video offering the Iranian regime a “new beginning,” the dictatorship responded with a shrug and five more years developing nuclear weapons.

The same year, the Olympic Committee spurned Obama’s in-person pitch to host the 2016 summer games in Chicago.

And the Russian “reset” has only emboldened Vladimir Putin, who seems to take particular pleasure in sticking his thumb in America’s eye. Between his Syria op-ed in the New York Times, granting asylum to Edward Snowden, and, most recently, intercepting and publicly posting the private phone call of a senior State Department official, Putin has had plenty of opportunities, and he’s perfecting the art.

It turns out that the world is far too complicated for one personality to manage. But more than five years into the Obama administration, the President still isn’t approaching foreign policy seriously.

The attitude was obvious recently at the confirmation hearings for several of the President’s nominees to be ambassadors. The group was so unqualified and ignorant of the countries to which they’d been appointed envoys that video of their testimony went viral on YouTube.

Do you know how bad it has to be for ambassadors’ confirmation hearings to go viral on YouTube?

Here’s how bad: The President’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway said he’d never been there, referred to the country as having a president (it doesn’t--it has a prime minister), and said the government had been “quick to denounce” a faction that is in fact part of its own coalition. (Perhaps the Norwegians are now rethinking that Nobel Peace Prize, if they weren’t already.)

Obama’s pick as ambassador to Hungary was apparently incapable of giving a coherent answer when Senator John McCain asked her, ““What are our strategic interests in Hungary?”

And in the same hearing, the President’s nominee as ambassador to Argentina conceded he’d never been there, either. “I haven’t had the opportunity yet to be there,” the man said. “I’ve traveled pretty extensively around the world. But I haven’t yet had a chance.”

Obama's choice for ambassador to Iceland was in the same situation. He'd never been to his post country either.

How did such obviously unqualified people get themselves appointed ambassadors? It’s no great shock: they donated and bundled lots of money for Obama and the Democrats. About $1.3 million in the case of our next ambassador to Norway, $1.6 million for Iceland, and at least half a million each for Hungary and Argentina.

America’s new ambassador to China, on the other hand, former Senator Max Baucus, didn’t get his post as a fundraiser--he got it for resigning his seat to clear the way for Montana’s Democratic governor to appoint his replacement and give the Dems a better chance of holding onto the Senate this fall. In Senator Baucus’s confirmation hearing, he responded to a question about an important matter of national security with the confession, “I’m no real expert on China...”

This is a dangerous level of corruption. Certainly other presidents have made appointments for less-than-altruistic reasons, but none in recent history has done it so frequently as President Obama.

And more importantly, these are major countries. The President isn’t selling the ambassadorship to Barbados. He’s selling the ambassadorships to NATO allies and to one of the largest countries in the western hemisphere. And he’s picking an ambassador to China--the largest country in the world--out of domestic political calculation.

That’s a terrifyingly frivolous attitude to take with our foreign relations, one that deserves to be mocked around the world. And it’s being mocked here at home as well: Jon Stewart excoriated the Democrats on the Daily Show this week for the corruption. So did the Washington Post and L.A. Times editorial boards.

The Senate has an absolute constitutional obligation to advise and consent on ambassadorial appointments, and Americans should demand that their senators use that authority now. The Senate must repudiate every one of the nominees who showed themselves unfit to represent the United States.

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