Foreign Service leaders ask Senate to reject Obama nominees

March 10, 2014
Colleen Bell (second from right) at a Los Angeles gala in November (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for LACMA) Colleen Bell (second from right) at a Los Angeles gala in November (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for LACMA)

Fifteen former presidents of the State Department employees union (AFSA) called on the Senate on Monday to reject the nominations of three Obama mega-bundlers for ambassadorships, saying the trio represents “a continuation of an increasingly unsavory and unwise practice by both parties.”

In an unusual and pointed letter, the former heads of the American Foreign Service Association said the three nominees — George Tsunis (for Norway); Colleen Bell (Hungary) and Noah Mamet (Argentina) — have been “subjected to widespread public ridicule, not only in the U.S. but also abroad,” after their Senate committee hearings, where they showed limited knowledge of the countries to which they’d been nominated.

Bell and Tsunis were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February, though Tsunis got through on a party-line, 12 to 6 vote. Their nominations are pending in the full Senate. Mamet is awaiting his committee vote.

In their letter, sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 11 other senators, the former union presidents said the trio’s performance — and the subsequent firestorm it sparked — had “severely impaired” their  “effectiveness as U.S. representatives. . . from the start.”

The former AFSA presidents cited Teddy Roosevelt’s observation that “The spoils or patronage theory is that public office is primarily designed for partisan plunder.”

Don’t make’m like Teddy any more. . .

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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