The Feb. 14 editorial “Mr. Obama’s political plums” demonstrated why the nominations of three major presidential campaign “bundlers” to head important U.S. Embassies in Norway, Hungary and Argentina are a disservice to U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy interests. Members of the Senate from both parties should withhold consent to these demonstrably unqualified “pay-to-play” nominees. The practice is disrespectful of other governments and peoples and undermines U.S. standing and influence in the international community.
In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “The spoils or patronage theory is that public office is primarily designed for partisan plunder.” There can be no credible rationale for choosing these nominees other than the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions they raise for partisan political purposes.
Susan Johnson, Potomac
Lars Hydle, Washington
The writers are former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association.
Regarding the Feb. 15 front-page article “Gaffes prompt diplomatic debate”:
In the undeniably valuable public debate on political appointments of ambassadors, we should be wary of allowing “political appointee” to become a synonym for “poor-quality envoy” and of assuming that being a career diplomat guarantees that one will be a high-quality ambassador. Being an effective chief of mission abroad requires a wide range of skills, including in negotiation, advocacy and leadership, as well as a good understanding of the country where one is serving. Those qualities can be found in both career diplomats and those who are political appointees, as I learned in more than 20 years as a Foreign Service officer.
If I had to pick the best ambassador under whom I served (a difficult task), it would be someone who was a political appointee, while the ambassador of whom I remain most critical was a career official. Ensuring that the United States is well represented abroad requires a nuanced approach rather than stereotypes, whether negative or positive.
Eric R. Terzuolo, Washington
I served as U.S. ambassador to Argentina the last four years and believe I know well what the job entails. Permit me to disagree with The Post’s standards for my successor and to provide some context.
As is common with career and non-career appointees alike, I had not visited Argentina prior to my nomination. Rather than having a diplomatic career, my experience was in nonprofits and the private sector. President Obama’s nominee, Noah Mamet, has a similar résumé in that he has worked in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. He spent seven years as a senior adviser to former House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt. Like me, he transitioned to the private sector but continued to champion important national issues, such as education reform, as well as international causes through the Clinton Foundation and other organizations.
There is no single set of experiences that prepares one to be an ambassador. Mr. Mamet’s political, government and business experience is a strong asset; in fact, with an election heating up amid economic challenges, his experience is ideal for this position.
Vilma S. Martinez, Los Angeles
Political appointees to ambassadorships aren’t all bad. I lived in Austria from 1993 to 1996, when Swanee Hunt, the daughter of oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, was ambassador. She was very popular and respected by the Austrians: She spoke good German, was musical and was a gracious hostess. In her autobiography, “Half-Life of a Zealot,” she pointed out that “like most political appointees in ‘plum positions,’ I substantially supplemented our budget for entertaining and refurbishing.”
Almuth F. Payne, Fairfax