White House avoids bundlers in recent round of ambassador nominations
June 5th, 2014
03:34 PM ET
4 months ago

White House avoids bundlers in recent round of ambassador nominations

Washington (CNN) – Move along, nothing to see here.

That's the message President Barack Obama and his administration are sending with its most recent ambassadorial nominations after facing scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats over the questionable credentials of some recent picks to represent the United States abroad.

The administration revealed its selections to fill four vacant postings in Turkey, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, and Guatemala earlier this week. All were State Department lifers with decades of combined diplomatic experience.

Then on Thursday, the White House announced its long-awaited selection to fill the job in Ireland, Kevin O'Malley.

While O'Malley doesn't bring a resume bookended by stints in the diplomatic corps, the practicing trial attorney held teaching gigs at Washington University School of Law and St. Louis School of Law in between serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Carter and Reagan administrations.

The Dublin posting had gone unfilled since the fall of 2012 when Ambassador Dan Rooney left - the longest period without a U.S. ambassador there in history. The top job at the embassy in Paris also currently remains empty following Charles Rivkin's departure last November.

O'Malley's support for Obama dates back to before he announced his presidential bid. O’Malley donated $2,300 to Obama in 2007 and again in 2008 - the maximum individual contribution - according to FEC filings.

However, unlike 51 other current ambassadors or those awaiting Senate confirmation, O'Malley is not a campaign bundler or prominent political player.

Since assuming office in January 2009, Obama has nominated nearly as many political picks as career diplomats to assume ambassadorial posts, according to the Center for Public Integrity. But the practice of dispatching diplomatic novices to important postings has drawn particular scorn in recent months.

Currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy has weathered criticism for her lack of credentials and that her famous last name really drove her selection.

Despite eventually unanimously confirming him, former Democratic senator of Montana, Max Baucus, faced similar skepticism when Obama nominated the political veteran to the Beijing gig during the middle of a mini-crisis after China expanded its airspace deeper into the East China Sea.

In January, the President's pick for Ambassador to Norway, George Tsunis, in responding to a question from the Senate panel charged with confirming him, referred to Norway's president and a fringe party denounced by the government.

Norway's highest political office is prime minister and the party Tsunis denounced is part of the coalition government.

The Tsunis family raised more than $500,000 for Obama's reelection bid.

Following the Tsunis tsuris, the administration's nominee to be ambassador to Argentina, who also raised $500,000 for Obama's various campaigns, revealed in testimony before Congress that he had never been to Argentina.

Though observers note that not all political picks for foreign service postings perform badly - former Ambassador Michael McFaul is an oft-mentioned case study, the administration's habit of rewarding political benefactors with cushy postings clashes with Obama's initial promise to reward quality civil servants.


Filed under: Ireland • Obama administration • White House
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. just asking

    ahhhh.... you mean the obama administration clown show of nominees that know nothing about the country they are going to is going to stop??? did somebody at the white house have a great revelation that competency matters? naaaahhhhh.... just look at the bergdahl fiasco.

    June 5, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Chris-E...al

    hopey changey foolishness lies to vote for a dem is like voting for the likes of dem gov Gorge Wallace of AL. That beat our black brothers and sisters like junkyard dogs . Dems only pretend to care during elections and then return to lawless ways an m0re tricks and lies . They just want to keep the poor poor and toss a them a bone from time to time....... .......

    June 5, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    Smitty
    Obumbles isn't nor never was up for the job, we need a pres not a celeb. It was clear from day 1 FAILURE ALL FRONTS. Way to go Bamby !!!
    ---
    Under the brilliant leadership of Lil' Bush, we had 9-11 (3000 killed), 15 embassy attacks (50 killed), two unnecessary wars (4500 killed and 45,000 wounded), the Great Recession, record job loss, an economic meltdown, over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians killed, negotiations giving the Taliban billions of dollars, over 500 Gitmo detainees released to fight against us; and the brain dead thinks that was leadership?

    June 5, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Chris-E...al says:
    June 5, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm
    hopey changey foolishness lies to vote for a dem is like voting for the likes of dem gov Gorge Wallace of AL. That beat our black brothers and sisters like junkyard dogs . Dems only pretend to care during elections and then return to lawless ways an m0re tricks and lies . They just want to keep the poor poor and toss a them a bone from time to time……. …….

    You are so full of ish that I can smell you through my iPhone. Who do you think you're fooling? Yes George Wallace was a democrat but what you fail to type is that the Southern Democrats were against Civil Rights and many left the Democratic Party. Those in Al loved him because he spoke just what they wanted to hear. And if he were around right now he would be a Republikkkan, probably a Tea Party republican.

    Your black brothers and sisters, please. I wonder how many you've entertained in your house? Probably none unless they were female because everyone knows the melanin challenged male may hate black men but they love them some belly warmers.

    June 5, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. Marcus (from...?)

    Chris-E...al – Most of those 'Dixiecrats' you refer to went ot the Republican Party 50 YEARS AGO! The others left the political parties or made their own.
    Translation, it's been two generations that those guys aren't democrats anymore.
    It's history lesson time?

    June 5, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |