With Congress returning from its five-week
vacation “district work period,” the State Department is back to shaming the Senate for its failure to confirm ambassadors, releasing statistics Friday that show 10 nominees have been waiting 400 days or longer for their confirmation.
Because of the snail-like pace and complete uncertainty around the process, the Obama administration decided to send in a temporary ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, who held the job under President George W. Bush, until the Senate gets around to voting on Obama’s pick, career foreign service officer John Bass. Bass has been waiting 93 days.
State spokeswoman Marie Harf said it’s not unusual to send a temporary ambassador to important vacant posts, and used the moment to swipe the Senate.
“Turkey is a NATO ally. We are confronting a very serious threat together,” Harf said, referring to ISIS in neighboring Iraq. “And we’ve gone a long time without an ambassador there because the Senate has refused to act. So we believed it was important to send Ambassador Wilson there.”
At the top of the list of longest waiting nominees is Thomas Daughton for Namibia, who has been waiting 432 days (!) and John Hoover for Sierra Leone, who has been waiting 422 days, as of Friday. Hoover, as we’ve reported, would be running the embassy in the country at the center of the Ebola outbreak.
Of the top 10, only one is a mega-campaign donor, Noah Mamet for Argentina (Remember him? He was among those who displayed little knowledge of the country he was being sent to), who has been waiting 401 days. The rest are career foreign service officers and one is career military.
Coming in at #11 is Loop favorite George Tsunis, the hotelier and Obama bundler, whose infamously painful performance at his confirmation hearing drew the ire of Norway and lost him support of several Senate Democrats. Next week, Tsunis celebrates the one-year anniversary of his nomination as the chance of his ever seeing the inside of the Norway ambassador residence fades.
(For more perspective on the issue, Washington Post opinion writer David Ignatius wrote a column this week about how the vacancies embarrass America and impact its image abroad.)