In the Catholic Church, the sin was called “simony,” the buying and selling of sacred offices, such as bishoprics. The practice was one of the abuses that lead to the Reformation. Now Foreign Service officers are rising against a secular simony, the Obama administration’s appointment of unqualified ambassadors who also happen to be big campaign donors:
After a string of rocky confirmation hearings for President Obama’s diplomatic nominees, the group representing America’s Foreign Service professionals signaled Friday that it’s had enough.
The organization, in a major rebuke, is now urging that the White House set minimum qualification standards for its ambassadorial nominees.
“The topic of the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees is of great interest to AFSA’s membership,” The American Foreign Service Association said in a statement. “All Americans have a vested interest in ensuring that we have the most effective leaders and managers of U.S. embassies and missions advancing U.S. interests around the globe.”
The American Foreign Service Association has long argued that ambassadorial nominees should, for the most part, come from the ranks of career professionals — as opposed to the ranks of top-dollar political donors. But the organization is taking its concerns to a new level, announcing Friday that it will propose new guidelines for “the necessary qualifications and qualities” for diplomatic candidates.
The statement said the group has been “closely monitoring” recent confirmation hearings.
AFSA has good reason to be upset. Administrations have typically operated under a 70-30 rule, under which political appointees (as opposed to professionals) were kept to around thirty percent of the available posts. Some went a little higher, others a little lower. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has broken all records: per AFSA, fully 53% of all appointees have been political, the trend rocketing during the second term.
If they were qualified, the practice would contemptible and venal, but tolerable. But many of these appointees are spectacularly unqualified:
- Senator Max Baucus, appointed to represent us in China, admitted he was “no real expert” on China. This is the same China that holds most of our debt and is a growing military rival in the Pacific. The only reason Team Smart Power yanked him out of the Senate (from which he was retiring) was to try to save the seat for the Democrats in the coming midterms.
- Hotelier and mega-bundler George Tsunis was so ignorant of of Norway, to which he had been appointed, that he managed to offend the Norwegian government at his confirmation hearing.
- Noah Mamet, another bundler, admitted under questioning that he’s never been to Argentina, one of the most important countries in South America and which appears to be heading into a crisis. Maybe they should have asked if he could find it on a map.
- And Colleen Bell, an Obama bundler and soap opera producer appointed to be our ambassador to Hungary, a nation whose democratic institutions are under attack by rising fascism, couldn’t describe our strategic interests in this NATO ally. Senator McCain utterly humiliated her in her hearing.
AFSA, which is not a union per se and has traditionally kept a low profile, is making the unprecedented demand that ambassadorial appointments meet some minimum qualifications. One would think this would already be true, but not apparently in Chicago-on-the-Potomac.
What’s next? Appointing Obama’s favorite horse?
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)