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Thursday, December 4, 2014
How to Become an American Ambassador: $$$$$
When I was roaming the world as a foreign correspondent, I
spent hours and hours talking to American ambassadors in places like Tokyo, El
Salvador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Peru, Mexico, etc. The list goes on and on.
Most of them had extensive knowledge of the countries in
which they represented the United States.
Mike Mansfield, for example, was the longest serving U.S.
Ambassador to Japan in history (1977-1988). He had a significant knowledge of
Japan and Asia and was fond of saying that the United States-Japan relationship
is the 'most important bilateral
relationship in the world, bar none.'
His successor, Michael H. Armacost (1989-1993), was the
former ambassador to The Philippines; a member of the National Security Council
to handle East Asian and Chinese affairs, and was acting Secretary of State.
When you had a conversation with either of these men about
Japanese-U.S. relations, it was substantive.
That same cannot be said for the two most recent ambassadors
confirmed by the Senate:
·New Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bradley Bell, 47,
a soap opera producer (The Bold and the Beautiful), Obama donor ($800,000) and
bundler ($2.1 million) for his campaigns.
·New Ambassador to Argentina Noah Bryson Mamet, 44,
a political consultant and bundler who raised $500,000 for Obama's presidential
of America's newest ambassadors have any significant knowledge of the countries
they will be working in and neither distinguished themselves during Senate
Colleen Bradley Bell
this exchange between Bell and Sen. McCain at this week's hearing:
MCCAIN: So what would
you be doing differently from your predecessor, who obviously had very rocky
relations with the present government?
BELL: If confirmed, I look forward to working with the broad
range of society —
MCCAIN: My question was, what would you do differently?
BELL: Senator, in terms of what I would do differently from
my predecessor, Kounalakis
MCCAIN: That’s the question.
BELL: Well, what I would like to do when — if confirmed — I
would like to work towards engaging civil society in a deeper — in a deeper —
MCCAIN: Obviously, you don’t want to answer my question.
Then there was this exchange between Mamet and Sen. Marco
RUBIO: "Mr. Mamet, have you been to
MAMET: "Senator, I haven't had the opportunity yet to
be there. I've traveled pretty extensively around the world. But I haven't yet
had a chance."
Mamet also conceded that he speaks no Spanish and has little
or no knowledge of Argentine history or politics.
And so it goes. The truth is that both Bell’s and Mamet's appointments
are just another example of the Washington game which rewards campaign donors
and friends of the president with ambassadorial positions.
By recent historic standards, Obama is already pushing the
ceiling when it comes to putting friends and campaign supporters in U.S.
According to research by the
American Foreign Service Association, 35 percent of Obama’s assignments have been
political appointments. But in his second term, the number has grown to 41
percent according. The AFSA union represents career diplomats and wants more
strict enforcement of a 1980 law that says campaign donations may not be
considered a qualification for any foreign posting.
Good luck with that.
Among other things
that law says: "An individual appointed or assigned to be a chief of mission
should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief
of mission, including, to the maximum extent practicable, a useful knowledge of
the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to
serve, and knowledge and understanding of the history, the culture, the
economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country and its
Whoops! Somebody in the White House must have forgotten
that. Ditto the Senate. But wait, the confirmation votes for Bell and Mamet
were along strict party lines. So forgetfulness was not a factor.
I was thinking that I were still roaming the world as a
foreign correspondent, what could I talk to Ms. Bell about if I were writing
It's oppressive form of government? Nah. It's sick economy?
Nah Corruption in the government of PM Viktor Orban? Nah.
But we could spend a good hour discussing the Bold and the
Beautiful and its most recent episode:
badgers Quinn to admit she went to the shower and took the cake as a momento.
Quinn hollers at him to let it go. He accuses her of stalking Hope. Quinn says
being treated like a pariah instead of a loving grandmother-to-be is ripping
her apart. She insists the baby changes everything. Hope and Wyatt's marriage
is secure and she'll never be a threat again. Liam promises as long as she's a
threat to Hope's happiness..."
And I could walk away with a reporter's notebook bulging with news.