MORE THAN two years after President Trump took office, the State Department remains critically understaffed. Only four of its nine top positions are filled; overall, according to the Partnership for Public Service, 38 percent of key positions are vacant. This month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the administration’s belated choices for ambassadors to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but there are still no nominees for such important posts as Pakistan, Honduras, Jordan and Brazil.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Republican senators frequently blame Senate Democrats for obstructing the filling of positions. So it’s worth reviewing, as the ranking Foreign Relations Committee Democrat, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), did in a recent floor speech, some of the people Mr. Trump has nominated — and, in some cases, renominated — for ambassadorships or senior positions in Foggy Bottom.
One, Christine Toretti, was issued a restraining order in 2008 after she allegedly placed a bullet-riddled target on the office chair of a doctor, according to CNN. Another, Ronald Mortensen, once claimed that then-Sen. John McCain was rolling out the “welcome mat for ISIS on America’s southern border.” A third, Leandro Rizzuto Jr., disseminated crackpot conspiracy theories, such as that the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was, as Mr. Menendez put it, “part of a sinister cabal seeking to combine the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States.”
Then there is Doug Manchester, who, after being nominated by Mr. Trump as ambassador to the Bahamas, told senators that the country was a “protectorate ” of the United States, even though it is not and never has been. The Post also reported that multiple women said they felt uncomfortable or demeaned by Mr. Manchester when he was the owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Like a number of Mr. Trump’s ambassadorial nominees, Mr. Manchester was a heavy donor — to the amount of $1 million — to the president’s inaugural committee, according to reporting by NBC News. Another big donor, John Rakolta, was nominated as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, though he has no diplomatic experience. Lydia Blanchard, whose husband gave $553,500 to the inaugural fund, posted fake news stories about Democrats on her Facebook page, including one suggesting Bill and Hillary Clinton were responsible for murders. She was nominated as ambassador to Slovenia.
Mr. Menendez maintains that Democrats have moved administration nominees who were properly vetted. But, he said, “when the White House, either though negligence or incompetence, sends us un-vetted, unqualified nominees, incapable and oftentimes offensive, my staff and I must exercise due diligence on behalf of the American people.” Indeed they must.