Archive for State Department

Is This Still Smart Power?

It’s no surprise that that most self-celebrating of social media, Twitter, is this regime’s go-to method of foreign policy.

There was Michelle:

Then Jen Psaki:

Of course, Barack’s selfie:

With such a record of success, it’s no wonder they brought the hashtag to bear in the war on terror:

The State Department social media initiative designed to engage with ISIS terrorists and jihadist sympathizers is “embarrassing,” “ineffective” and “distressing,” the head of a prominent intelligence group wrote Tuesday in a scathing editorial.

The “Think Again Turn Away” campaign and Twitter account, launched by the State Department in December, in part, to dissuade on-the-fence jihadists from joining the fight against the West is actually serving to embolden and legitimize the social media presence of bloodthirsty terrorists already on the ground, Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group, wrote in a Time magazine article published online Tuesday.

The State Department’s “English-language outreach program is not only ineffective, but also provides jihadists with a stage to voice their arguments,” Katz claimed, calling the initiative’s Twitter account a “gaffe machine that “walks dangerous ethical lines.”

“Thirteen years into the war on terror, it is distressing to see certain ways the U.S. government is combating domestic radicalization by groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State,” Katz wrote. The account regularly (engages) in petty disputes with fighters and supporters of groups like IS (also known as ISIS), Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab, and (argues) over who has killed more people while exchanging sarcastic quips.”

“In order to counter a problem, one must first study it before adopting a solution. Had the people behind Think Again Turn Away understood jihadists’ mindsets and reasons for their behavior, they would have known that their project of counter messaging would not only be a waste of taxpayer money, but ultimately be counterproductive,” she wrote. “I would much rather see the State Department’s online ventures involved in projects that explain the great things American policies have achieved — not arguing with jihadi fighters on who killed more innocent Muslims.”

I don’t think they’re getting any smarter:

The U.S. State Department ratcheted up the online propaganda war on Wednesday, tweeting a photo composite showing four dead ISIS jihadis who it suggested were killed in overnight airstrikes in Syria.

The ‘Think Again Turn Away’ program’s Twitter account blasted out the image to nearly 8,000 followers. The initiative’s goal is to dissuade would-be jihadis, including so-called ‘foreign fighters,’ from joining up with ISIS.

One ISIS-linked Twitter account with nearly 10,000 followers claimed Tuesday night that the ‘first victims of air strikes by US on Syria’ were ‘children and women.’

Another tweeted news stories from dubious sources claiming French fighter jets mistakenly bombed Kurdish allies, killing 75 fighters in a friendly-fire cockup.

Separately, a weeks-long Twitter campaign centered around the hashtag #AMessageFromISIStoUS spread a series of chest-puffing boasts, including direct threats against the U.S. homeland.

We rightly condemn ISIS for broadcasting their executions of innocents hostages. But posting pictures of dead terrorists? In a Twitter account? By our government? Not only is it juvenile, it’s unseemly. Kill ‘em, kill ‘em all. Just don’t act like them.

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A Woman Scorned

CBS benched Sharyl Attkisson until she ultimately resigned.

Bad move, CBS:

Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review

Sharyl Attkisson

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

New Benghazi allegation puts spotlight on Hillary Clinton confidants, alleged after-hours document review.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story.

Maxwell says the weekend document session was held in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.” He describes it as a large space, outfitted with computers and big screen monitors, intended for emergency planning, and with small offices on the periphery.

When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisers.

“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’”

Maxwell, 58, strongly supported President Barack Obama and personally contributed to his presidential campaign. But post-Benghazi, he has soured on both Obama and Clinton, saying he had nothing to do with security and was sacrificed as a scapegoat while higher-up officials directly responsible escaped discipline.

Maxwell spent a year on paid administrative leave with no official charge ever levied against him. Ultimately, the State Department cleared Maxwell of wrongdoing and reinstated him. He retired a short time later, in November 2013.

Several weeks after he was placed on leave with no formal accusations, Maxwell made an appointment to address his status with a State Department ombudsman.

“She told me, ‘You are taking this all too personally, Raymond. It is not about you,’ ” Maxwell recalls.

“I told her that ‘My name is on TV and I’m on administrative leave, it seems like it’s about me.’ Then she said, ‘You’re not harmed, you’re still getting paid. Don’t watch TV. Take your wife on a cruise. It’s not about you; it’s about Hillary and 2016.’ ”

How does this make you feel, Madame Secretary?

Don’t take it too hard. As the lady said, “it’s not about you”:

Attkisson said that the White House is misleading the public about the ongoing releases of information that they’ve offered regarding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2012 on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

She stated that one of the goals of the committee will be to investigate President Obama’s movement that night and how he reacted to the attack.

“I do think that they will reach out at some point, not in the beginning, to the White House and probably to President Obama directly, in some form, to get a timeline and an accounting of what he did that night, which has remained, mysteriously, and I think, unacceptably private when he’s the Commander-in-Chief acting on our behalf at a time when Americans are under attack on foreign soil.”

Ultimately, Attikisson confessed she has little hope that this committee will change the public narrative on what happened that night.

Allow me to elucidate, Sharyl. Obama was prepping for a fundraiser in Las Vegas the next day. Check his schedule; it’s public record.

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With Two Political Prisoners You Get Egg Roll

It’s not often I praise the Obama administration, much less its State Department.

It won’t become a habit, trust me:

The street holding the Chinese embassy in Washington DC could be renamed after a noted Chinese dissident.

An amendment attached to a state department budget bill would make the embassy’s address 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.

Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion in China.

The Chinese foreign ministry has called the proposed change of address – which now requires Congress approval – “nothing more than a sheer farce”.

“Some people from the United States have used so-called human rights and the Liu Xiaobo case to engage in this meaningless sensationalism,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

Choke on it, China.

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Our Friends, the Russians

Okay, so maybe Hillary’s embarrassing Reset Button gag went over like a lead balloon:

Nothing cements relations like mutual derision:

Russia is somewhat obsessed with Jen Psaki.

The State Department spokeswoman has turned into Russia’s boogeyman (boogey-woman?) and favorite punching bag as relations with the United States have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine.

She is demonized on television. Her gaffes are celebrated widely as internet memes on Russian social media. A popular radio morning show even mocked her in a song set to a popular children’s tune.

“There is nobody more competent than Psaki, nobody more pretty, or smarter,” sang the chorus, sarcastically. The song accused her of peddling “nonsense” to journalists and urged her to “keep it up, we want to laugh more.”

In April, Psaki was taunted by Russian media for using the hashtags #RussiaIsolated and #UnitedforUkraine on Twitter, including sending a photo of herself holding a #UnitedforUkraine sign with a thumbs up. (The Obama administration’s social media campaign on Ukraine, led by Psaki, was ridiculed by some at home as well, including the New York Post and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.)

ABC News calls this an “obsession”. But can you blame Russia? Psaki is pure comedy gold.

Yup:

Not just hashtags; sometimes there are bracelets:

Untitled

And perhaps the pansiest response of all:

Untitled

Those aren’t pansies? Sorry.

Anyway, if the French can love us for Jerry Lewis, why can’t Russia love us for Jen Psaki? She’s funnier.

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Look Who’s Talking

Why doesn’t Israel try our way of handling kidnappings? Release more terrorists!

Whatever you do, Israel, show restraint:

The United States on Wednesday called on both Israel and the Palestinian Arabs to “show restraint” as Israel tightened their grip on Hamas hunting for three kidnapped teenagers, AFP reports.

“We recognize this is an incredibly sensitive and difficult circumstance on the ground, and we feel all sides should exercise restraint,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

And we all know how Jen Psaki responds to international war crimes:

“Hamas terrorists carried out Thursday’s kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. We know that for a fact,” said Netanyahu in an official statement. “These teenagers were kidnapped and the kidnapping was carried out by Hamas members. Hamas denials do not change this fact.”

Psaki confirmed Wednesday that Frenkel is also a US citizen and said US officials had been in touch with his family.

“We urge both sides to exercise restraint and avoid the types of steps that could destabilize the situation,” she warned.

The US has been notably quiet about the kidnappings, drawing intense criticism from both Israelis and American Jewry over what many see as a blasé attitude toward the situation.

Hamass kidnapped Gilad Shalit and held him for more than five years, only to release him in exchange for over a thousand Arab prisoners. Is that what our valiant State Department suggests? Release another 3,000 criminals and terrorists as the boys rot away the remaining of their teen years in Hamass dungeons?

Israel knows any chance of retrieving the boys must be seized as soon as possible, when the intelligence is fresh and before the boys can be moved. F*ck restraint. Grab ‘em by the balls and twist until their eyes bug out of their heads.

PS: I don’t want to be too hard on Ms. Psaki, but I have yet to hear one sensible word come out of her head. What a clod.

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Boko and Mindy

Our intrepid diplomats have a cunning plan to bringbackourgirls.

Sit-coms:

The State Department is financing a new 24-hour satellite television channel in the turbulent northern region of Nigeria that American officials say is crucial to countering the extremism of radical groups such as Boko Haram. The move signals a ramping up of American counterinsurgency efforts to directly challenge the terrorist group, which abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls in April.

State Department officials acknowledged that setting up an American-supported channel could prove challenging in a region where massacres, bombings and shootings by Boko Haram are common, and where the American government and Western educational programs are far from popular. The group has been known to attack media organizations in Nigeria.

The goal of the channel is to provide original content, including comedies and children’s programs that will be created, developed and produced by Nigerians. State Department officials said they hoped to provide an alternative to the violent propaganda and recruitment efforts of Boko Haram.

Suggested program titles: The Big Game Theory; Seinveldt; Allah in the Family, 276 Broken Girls.

Hey, it could work. Nothing changes minds and mores like mass media, right?

Many foreign policy experts, while applauding State Department programs to counter the efforts of Boko Haram and other extremist groups, said the new satellite project faced several challenges in a region with low levels of infrastructure, public services, literacy and security.

Access to electricity is limited in many rural areas of northern Nigeria, and few people own televisions. While some people might be able to view the programs on cellphones, a U.S.A.I.D. official recently told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Boko Haram has been targeting cellphone towers to reduce access to communication services in the region.

If Western education is sinful to Boko Haram, I doubt episodes of Hanna Savanna are going to appeal to the devout and pious Muslims among them. But other than “infrastructure, public services, literacy and security”, plus “massacres, bombings and shootings”, this thing has a chance.

They couldn’t protect Christopher Stevens, but they think they can produce a TV show. I’d say that’s Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell.

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Being John Kerry

Not exactly a headline designed to pack ‘em in, but give me a chance.

Ynet has an “exclusive” interview with an American intimately involved in the failed negotiations between Israel and the Arab occupiers of Judea and Samaria.

You’ll never guess whom Kerry and his people blame for the collapse:

From the US perspective, the issue of the settlements was largely to blame.

You’ll have to read a lot further down to find any other explanation. Over and over, Netanyahu and the Israelis are described as inflexible, insulting, disinterested—“we were doing this for you”, the official laments.

Even Arab failures are blamed on Israel:

Abbas refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“We couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. We wanted to believe that for the Palestinians this was a tactical move – they wanted to get something (in return) and that’s why they were saying ‘no.’

“The more Israel hardened its demands, the more the Palestinian refusal deepened. Israel made this into a huge deal – a position that wouldn’t change under any circumstances. The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.”

But there was one Israeli they did like:

“Tzipi Livni was a heroine. She fought with all of her might to promote the agreement.

We noted the other day Caroline Glick’s assertion that Livni serves as an American mole in the Israeli government. No wonder we want to give her a medal (while Jonathan Pollard rots in prison).

Subsequent events—Fatah making nice with Hamass, Kerry’s “Apartheid” comments—have bolstered any Israeli skepticism. Kerry may have been insulted by accusations that he was hot in pursuit of a Nobel Prize, but let’s just say he wouldn’t have turned one down had it been offered.

And now the threats of reprisal:

“As of now, nothing is stopping the Palestinians from turning to the international community. The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end – whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.

“The boycott and the Palestinian application to international organizations are medium-range problems. America will help, but there’s no guarantee its support will be enough.

“Your extreme right wing is very happy with the collapse of the peace talks. They won’t accept any gesture, or any positive comment from the other side.”

Sigh. No doubt this anonymous American knows whereof he speaks. His account certainly fits the pattern of the Obama regime. (Is it any wonder why Israel doesn’t trust us? I don’t trust us.) There’s no reference to missiles, mortars, and rockets from Gaza; no mention of Arab anitsemitism and incitement to violence and genocide; no condemnation of the glorification of terrorists living and dead; no reminder that Abbas himself is a fictitious leader (he has no power in Gaza, and his elected term has long since expired) of a fictitious people (“Palestinian” is a modern invention); no suggestion that neighboring countries, Jordan most particularly, have played a key role in this “unsustainable” status quo—through containment camps and second-class citizenship for refugees (if Arabs among other Arabs can be so labeled, especially after 65 years of refuge). One could easily go on.

So, why not go on? Did you notice, as I did, the internal contradiction in US and Arab criticism? It’s all about the settlements, we’re told—they’re bad, bad, bad. Yet America proposed, and the Arabs seemed to agree, “to the border outline so 80 percent of settlers would continue living in Israeli territory”. How can settlements be the problem if the Arab position is that 80% of them are okay? Most new construction in Judea and Samaria is also in existing settlements, so that can’t be a problem either.

Israel was wise or lucky to have missed out on this “historic” opportunity. This was always an ego trip for Kerry. Given his ego, it’s no surprise the trip was so long and arduous. Such peace initiatives between the Israelis and the Arabs usually bring about bloodshed (as engagement and flexibility are interpreted as weakness and vulnerability). It’s odd that the one effort that has actually led to anything like peace was Jimmy Carter’s Camp David accord. But then, Israel had no strong cultural ties to the Sinai, and Egypt had no stomach for more war. Until the Arab occupiers of Judea and Samaria experience similar defeat, I believe, they will have no stomach for peace.

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Our Insufferable Selfie Government

Putin seizes Crimea; Russian troops mass on the border; restive Russian minorities in other former SSRs look toward Moscow for reunification.

Who ya gonna call?

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki is incurring lots of criticism and ridicule for responding to the Ukraine crisis with a selfie.

Jen is actually not some experienced State Department hand. She’s a veteran flack and one of the bright young Obama acolytes who came out of the 2008 campaign and into the White House, where she was among President Obama’s better-liked press assistants.

The White House sent her over to State about a year ago to take over the top spokesperson job. Along with White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, she’s viewed as one of the two most likely successors to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney once he’s had enough.

Oy.

Where would she learn that such behavior at the highest level of government is acceptable? Who would model such feckless, shallow behavior?

Now, I’m sure the Mandelas didn’t mind—even if Michelle so clearly did.

To paraphrase the First Lady, today I am more embarrassed for my country than at any time in my adult life.

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KGB vs ACORN

That’s how Rush has termed the match between Putin and Obama.

Unsurprisingly, the ACORN gets crunched under the jackboot heel:

In the last seven weeks, intercepted phone conversations between Western and Ukrainian officials have mysteriously surfaced on the Internet. U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast these phone recordings are part of a deliberate Russian strategy to collect and publicize the private conversations of their adversaries.

It started in the first week of February. As Ukraine’s political elites were scrambling to form a new government, a recording of a cellphone call emerged between Victoria Nuland, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. The intercept featured Nuland privately saying, “Fuck the EU,” and disclosed the preferences of two senior U.S. diplomats for who should serve in Ukraine’s interim government.

A month later, a phone call between European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Estonia’s foreign minister Urmas Paet appeared on the Internet. In the conversation, Paet discussed a theory that the snipers who fired on demonstrators in Ukraine may have been anti-Russian provocateurs.

This Monday, a third private phone call suddenly appeared on the Web. This time it was Yulia Tymeshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, saying, “It’s about time we grabbed our guns and killed those damned Russians together with their leader.” ?

All three intercepted phone calls were invaluable to reinforcing Russia’s desired narrative: depicting the West as meddling in Ukrainian affairs and Ukraine’s new leadership as implacably hostile to Moscow. Not coincidentally, all three calls received major play on the Kremlin-funded Russian propaganda station known as RT. And all three are almost certainly the handiwork of Russia’s intelligence services.

Did you think Putin was going to fight clean? John Kerry accused Putin of behaving in “19th century” fashion in the 21st century. But it is he, Kerry (and Obama), who are stuck in a 19th century mindset, from plus-fours to top hats.

While the State Department sips claret from new crystal (ordered as the government shut down)…

…Putin takes his libations from the waters of the Black Sea.

Obama’s dismissal of Russia as a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness” will be his Gerald Ford moment: “There is no Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe.” Russia may be “a gas station masquerading as a country”, as John McCain amusingly put it—or Haiti with nukes, as we used to say—but it’s still got nukes and it’s still got gas.

And it’s got a street thug in charge. Who do we have? President Mom Jeans.

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Their Kind

Where’d you say you come from again?

The US State Department is denying visas to senior members of Israeli security forces whose work is connected to Israeli rule in the West Bank, Channel 10 reported Tuesday night, citing “pro-Israel sources” on Capitol Hill.

The effort to identify officers and commanders from the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad, and other organizations stems from a fear that these individuals may have played a part in violating Palestinians’ human rights.

The US administration did not confirm the report, but did say last week that Israel’s discrimination against visiting Arab Americans is the primary reason it is not eligible for a program allowing Israeli tourists in to the United States without visas.

“The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the Visa Waiver Program,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said March 21 in her daily briefing with reporters.

The Tsarnaev boys are welcome, but you Joos can just git. (I’m hearing Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke.)

Israel says its rate of refusal of entry for Arab Americans is not disproportionate and notes that under the Oslo agreements with the Palestinians, foreigners of Palestinian descent undergo a different entry protocol.

Doesn’t seem unreasonable under the circumstances.

Psaki’s remarks came after several weeks in which a number of lawmakers, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have criticized US consular services for their rate of refusal of young Israelis.

In addition to Schumer, other lawmakers who have pressed the State Department to explain the spike in the rate of refusal include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Obama-Kerry State Department may bitch-slap Israel with one hand, but it offers flowers with another:

The United States has proposed freeing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in a trade-off deal in which Israel would agree to proceed with the next round of prisoner releases, including Israeli Arab prisoners, and the Palestinian Authority would agreed to extend the current peace talks, Israel’s Army Radio reported Wednesday.

It said the offer had been conveyed to Israel and the PA, but there was no official confirmation. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was quoted telling journalists accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry to a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday morning that there were currently no plans to release Pollard, who is serving a life sentence.

In exchange for Pollard, Israel would agree to release 26 prisoners, among them around 20 Arab Israelis, and the Palestinians would agree to continue talks until the end of 2014, according to Army Radio.

Israel has strong feelings about Pollard, which is understandable, but he is not an Israeli citizen. Israel must consider the security of its own citizens first, as unfair as his treatment may be. We sure as hell know we can’t trust the State Department.

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The Next Foreign Policy Success Will Be Obama’s First

Syria a humanitarian nightmare; Egypt back to a military dictatorship (thank God); Iran as resistant and recalcitrant as ever: what’s a “transformational president” to do if the others won’t transform?

The recent positions by the White House officials on certain issues are “not acceptable,” said Mohammad Hassan Asafari, who sits on Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, on Thursday.

“They should remember that Iran’s missile issues are not part of the negotiations in the Geneva agreement and are by no means negotiable; and the P5+1 [group] (the five parties to the nuclear talks with Iran) cannot launch such a scenario,” he said.

Earlier, Wendy Sherman, the US top nuclear negotiator at the talks with Iran, said during a Senate hearing last week that the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program would be addressed as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal.

However, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday that Tehran had no intention of discussing its ballistic missile program with major powers.

“The subject of the talks with the P5+1 group is only the nuclear issue; and we will not discuss any other issues,” he said, adding that the country’s defense issues “are not negotiable and are our red line.”

“Red line” as it is commonly meant, non-negotiable, a deal breaker? Or “red line” as Obama means it, a policy as easily cast off as a dirty sock? Something tells me Iran means what it says it more than Obama ever did.

Thank goodness these fiascos don’t actually hurt anybody. Just good for a laugh, right Syria?

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Dipsomanic Immunity

A minor story, perhaps, given the chaos, mayhem, and catastrophe we have to cover, but no less enjoyable:

Recently, a colleague of mine from the Foreign Service told me about a former U.S. ambassador to Sweden who, some years ago, had passed out in the snow, too drunk to get up. He had been partying hard during an outing in the countryside. Fortunately, an embassy officer found him in time to save his life. America’s boozy man in Stockholm was a non-career political appointee—no surprise. The fellow who saved him was a professional diplomat. And the roles the two men played that night is emblematic of a familiar routine.

That was the thought I had earlier this week when word came that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had approved nominations of President Barack Obama’s latest batch of ambassadorial picks—including a couple of first-time diplomats whose cringeworthy performances during their testimony suggested they’ll need to rely heavily on their Foreign Service staff to keep from embarrassing the United States.

When hotel magnate George Tsunis, Obama’s nominee for Oslo, met with the Senate last month, he made clear that he didn’t know that Norway was a constitutional monarchy and wrongly stated that one of the ruling coalition political parties was a hate-spewing “fringe element.” Another of the president’s picks, Colleen Bell, who is headed to Budapest, could not answer questions about the United States’ strategic interests in Hungary. But could the president really expect that she’d be an expert on the region? Her previous gig was as a producer for the TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. She stumbled through responses to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) like, well, a soap opera star, expounding on world peace. When the whole awkward exchange concluded, the senator grinned. “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees,” McCain said sarcastically.

For the purposes of comparison, Norway’s ambassador to the Washington is a 31-year Foreign Ministry veteran. Hungary’s ambassador is an economist who worked at the International Monetary Fund for 27 years.

Obama’s bundler’s and hacks are hardly the first of their kind to put on the striped pants and waistcoats of the diplomatic service. But they are clearly no better. It looks like his extended hand of friendship is expecting its palm to be greased.

The reason a hotelier and a television producer, for instance, might be appealing choices is blindingly obvious: money. Bell raised $2,101,635 for President Obama’s re-election efforts. Tsunis, who flipped his affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2009, embraced his new party with gusto, raising $988,550 for the president’s 2012 bid.

Among the ambassadors serving in 10 of the choicest cities in Europe and the Caribbean, the average amount raised per posting in the last election was $1.79 million, according to the Guardian newspaper. And the cost for a plush post in a city like Rome, Paris, Stockholm or Canberra seems to be going up. The Guardian reported that appointees to these embassies raised a total of $5 million in 2012, up from $3.3 million in 2008, $1.3 million in 2004 and $800,000 in 2000.

We were expecting so much more from Obama—at least for the Paris posting. He’s selling himself cheap.

Another champ:

And then there’s the recent case of Cynthia Stroum, Obama’s pick to serve in Luxembourg—a Rhode Island-sized NATO ally that has always been a convenient spot to stick political friends and donors. Over the years, real estate moguls, socialites and car salesmen have all washed up in the Ardennes. Stroum, a wealthy Seattle investor, was dispatched there in 2009 after raising half a million bucks to put Obama in the White House (or, $1 for every citizen of Luxembourg). She abruptly resigned in early 2011 after a blistering report from the State Department’s inspector general noted that her embassy “has underperformed for the entirety of the current ambassador’s tenure.” The ambassador’s managerial style, the report claimed, engendered personality conflicts and the embassy was fraught with verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel and booze. “At present, due to internal problems, [the embassy] plays no significant role in policy advocacy or reporting,” the report noted, “though developments in Luxembourg are certainly of interest to Washington clients and other U.S. missions in the NATO and EU communities.” So terrorized was Stroum’s small staff that the inspector general recommended the State Department dispatch medical personnel to examine the stress levels of embassy employees. It noted at least four quit or sought transfers to jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan during her tenure, rare moves for diplomats ensconced in cushy European postings.

Let’s keep it real: developments in Luxembourg are barely of interest to Luxembourgers; of none to anyone else in the entire galaxy. But that our career diplomats sought refuge in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than work for the bundling bitch, Stroum, is very enlightening.

Why bring up this amusing but ancient history?

Because Obama is about to top—or bottom—himself:

Obama bundler and nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Noah Mamet has never been to Argentina, he revealed at his confirmation hearing Thursday.

“I haven’t had the opportunity yet to be there,” he said. “I’ve traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven’t yet had a chance.”

Mamet bundled $500,000 for Obama and the Democratic Party, and he’s not the only friend of the administration to recently reveal little in-depth knowledge of his new country.

But he looks forward to starting a dialogue:

On Friday, a State Department spokesperson couldn’t answer whether Manet could speak Spanish. Asked, she answered, “I don’t have his personal biography in front of me.”

Isn’t this the same guy who said “[I]nstead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, they’ll learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”

Do I care that Obama is sending rich fools to foreign hell-holes? I do not. Given its recent behavior, Argentina deserves a fatuous fop like whatshisname. I’d send Charlie Sheen to France if I were president (except that his behavior would be unremarkable over there). But can we remove the cardboard halo from above Obama’s head now? And replace it with a sign that says “ATM: Deposits Only”?

PS: Given who’s running things, I suppose we shouldn’t be upset at the tawdriness of the State Department.


That’s funny, you don’t look Luxembourgan.

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