On one hand, it is the stuff of which comedy is made:
It is even worse, of course. These folks seem to know little about the place they will be assigned. Pamela Harriman they are not. No one begrudges a donor or two getting a cushy job, but the number and poor quality is bracing. Didn’t President Obama have any impressive moneymen?
As funny as it may be, the ambassadorial disgrace raises a number of important issues:
1. How in the world can the Democrats confirm these people? Frankly, we’re going to get a whole lot more of these ridiculous nominees due to the evisceration of the filibuster. The temptation to do so increases, and the administration can’t very well turn to their big shot donors and say, “I’d like to, but the Senate you know . . .” If there were ever the perfect example of why the filibuster is needed this is it.
2. This is a grave insult to the competent foreign service officers and the State Department itself. It suggests what they do is irrelevant or even silly. The buffoons ironically were put there by the administration for which the answer to every problem is “diplomacy.”
3. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell must be wondering why he is looking at jail time. His big cat donor gave far less than the ambassadorial picks and got a whole lot less in return (a couple of phone calls, a couple of appearances). The only difference was that the time span between the “gifts” in the case of McDonnell and the favors was very short compared to the lag between raising 6 or 7 figures and getting the ticket to Norway, Argentina or Iceland. But as a legal matter, that is of no significance. Corruption is corruption for governors and for presidents, or it isn’t for either.
4. With the Argentina appointment, Obama continues his disregard for our hemisphere and fails to recognize that if we don’t develop close and beneficial relationships with the nations, they will fall under the power of nefarious forces. Argentina-U.S. relations haven’t been great of late as its government tries to cozy up to Iran, and this only emphasizes the suspicion that Obama isn’t much interested in reorienting Argentina. As Jonathan Turley put it, “Now, after years of tense relations, Argentina is watching Obama send someone who has not even bothered to visit the country — fulfilling a stereotype of insular Americans. This is not like some distinct, dangerous spot like Yemen (which no bundler would want). Argentina is hard to miss for people traveling in the region.”
5. This is yet another instance in which politics trumps virtually everything else in the administration. Sending unqualified ambassadors to important nations is actually minor compared to shifting the Afghanistan withdrawal to get troops home before the 2012 election. It is ironic that the president who came into office as a purported wonkish intellectual, an ideal technocrat, has in so many instances reflected the worst of mindless partisan politics.
It’s hard to remember that voters took the transformational and inspirational rhetoric of 2008 seriously. All of that has gone by the wayside as Obama has dug in both rhetorically and ideologically. But what likely brings both Democrats and Republicans together is their horror at a president who lacks the competence and will to govern well. The ambassadorial picks are only the tip of iceberg, of course. It’s small compared to Obamacare or the disastrous Syria policy, but it is all of a piece.