The last couple of days have been devastating for the U.S. State Department because of one issue: the utter lack of qualifications of President Obama’s political appointees to diplomatic posts.
It began Thursday, when Noah Mamet, the president’s pick for ambassador to Argentina, admitted he’d never been to the country, according to Fox News.
“I haven’t had the opportunity yet to be there,” Mamet told U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., at the confirmation hearing.
I would admit that’s not a disqualifier in and of itself — but Mamet didn’t seem to know much about the country, either.
Rubio expressed concern over Argentina’s gradual alignment with Venezuela and its recent crackdowns on the press, which suggest to Rubio that the country is moving in an “anti-democratic direction” and that the ambassador position is “a very significant post.”
Mamet had a different view.
“In my perspective, they are an ally who we disagree with,” Mamet said, sounding like he was talking about Great Britain.
On the plus side, Rubio told the nominee he had “an impressive resume of work and so forth.” Mamet founded a political consulting firm and bundled $500,000 in contributions to Obama’s re-election campaign.
At a press briefing the following day, the media hammered State Department spokeswoman Jen Psak about Mamet and other political appointees.
After pointing out that Mamet “hadn’t set foot in the country,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked if he at least speaks Spanish. She didn’t know the answer, but she made a comment eerily similar to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”
“Judging somebody’s effectiveness, or what role they’ll play, or how strong of an ambassador they’ll be — you can’t do [that] until they’ve spent some time working in the job in the country,” she said.
So we have to confirm the appointee to find out if they’re going to be any good or not.
Watch the exchange:
Karl also noted the unusually high number of Obama political appointees who have “raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Obama campaign,” asking, “What does it cost to be ambassador?”
Psak deflected the question — telling Karl to ask the White House.
Even the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin, usually an Obama administration ally, turned up the heat. After saying, “Sometimes political appointees can make good ambassadors,” he listed other Obama political appointees who have proved an embarrassment to the administration, and ultimately, the country.
“Obama’s appointee to ambassador of Luxembourg ran that embassy into the ground; the ambassador to the Bahamas took 270 personal days in a year and a half,” he said. “The ambassador to Belgium was reportedly investigated by your own IG’s [Inspector General’s] office for procuring prostitutes in the park in front of his house. So I’m wondering, do you draw a distinction between people like Walter Mondale, who are, like, life-long public servants, and political donors and bundlers who have no professional or international experience whatsoever?”
Watch Rogin’s question and Psak’s response:
All in all, the first week of February 2014 is one I’m sure the State Department would rather forget.
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