The Washington Post

Rubio: Is it Qatar, Qatar or Qatar?

[posttv url="" ]


Before Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) launched into a series of questions about the Taliban Five, he needed a little assist from the nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Qatar.

Exactly how do you pronounce the country hosting the released prisoners?

“OK, well, how would I say it? Help me,” Rubio said to Dana Smith, a career Foreign Service officer.

Smith first offered him the Arabic way, then an American way. (See video above.) The correct pronunciation of Qatar could come in handy during presidential debates in the 2016 race, so Rubio was wise to get the articulation down early.

(AP Photo/Molly Riley) (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Smith was a late addition to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing, ostensibly because lawmakers wanted to ask about the May 31 Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, and because if there is going to be a change in ambassadors, it’s probably an important time to get that moving.

Smith assured Rubio that when she gets to Qatar, monitoring the five Guantanamo Bay detainees who were traded for Bergdahl will be at the “very top of my list of priorities.”

“And we will be assessing continuously every day — every morning when I wake up, every night when I go to sleep — to reassess whether these people pose any threat whatsoever to our national security,” she said.

Rubio pressed on, asking about the precedent the prisoner exchange sets. Smith said she wasn’t qualified to address that. He asked whether Americans abroad are now at greater risk. Smith said the security of diplomats is something to be concerned about always. Which led Rubio to reference Benghazi and the terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission there. He asked Smith about security at the U.S. Embassy in Qatar.

“It’s a constant give and take; it’s a constant conversation,” she said. “And I think it’s probably best to leave it at that.”

Later, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asked Smith whether she’d read the “memorandum of understanding” the United States signed with Qatar about the specific do’s and don’ts of the prisoners’ security. She had read it Monday; members of Congress it seems got it later. Johnson wondered aloud whether her security clearance was “higher than that of a U.S. senator?”

“I can’t answer that question. I don’t know what your security clearance is,” Smith said. But she assured him she’d be “delighted” to consult with him “as closely and regularly as you like.”

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says ...
This was supposed to be the strongest Republican presidential field in memory, but cracks are showing. At Saturday night's debate, Marco Rubio withered in the face of unyielding attacks from Chris Christie, drawing attention to the biggest question about his candidacy: Is he ready to be president? How much the debate will affect Rubio's standing Tuesday is anybody's guess. But even if he does well, the question about his readiness to serve as president and to go up against Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, will linger.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.