Disgraceful choices for ambassadors to Hungary and Argentina confirmed by Senate
Colleen Bell is well qualified to produce television soap operas and raise money for President Obama’s elections, but it is a disgrace and an insult to Hungary that she has just been confirmed by the Senate to be Ambassador to Hungary. But at least she has visited Hungary as a tourist. That basic qualification eluded the grasp of Noah Mamet, confirmed as Ambassador to Argentina. Amb. Mamet had never set foot in Argentina and speaks almost no Spanish.
Ms. Bell’s confirmation hearing in January was a deep embarrassment and should have torpedoed her nomination. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote for Bloomberg:
At her confirmation hearing… McCain asked Bell an exceedingly simple question: “What are our strategic interests in Hungary?”
She gave the following imperishable answer: “Well, we have our strategic interests, in terms of what are our key priorities in Hungary, I think our key priorities are to improve upon, as I mentioned, the security relationship and also the law enforcement and to promote business opportunities, increase trade-- ”
McCain interrupted her: “I’d like to ask again what our strategic interests in Hungary are.”
Bell plowed ahead. “Our strategic interests are to work collaboratively as NATO allies, to work to promote and protect the security, both -- for both countries and for -- and for the world, to continue working together on the cause of human rights around the world, to build that side of our relationship while also maintaining and pursuing some difficult conversations that might be necessary in the coming years.”
To which McCain replied, witheringly, “Great answer.”
Hungary is a relatively large country that is now facing serious political turmoil that could well roil Central Europe. We don’t need an ambassador who doesn’t even bother to bone up on issues there before her confirmation hearing. If she is this casual about her post, she should not be sent to Budapest.
Senator McCain, to his credit, tried to persuade the Senate to reject her (video here):
Prior to the vote, McCain, R-Ariz., went on a tirade about how Colleen Bradley Bell, a soap opera producer and bundler for President Obama's campaigns, is "unqualified" to represent the United States as an ambassador to Hungary.
"We're about to vote on a totally unqualified individual to be ambassador to a nation which is very important to our national security interest," McCain said on the Senate floor. "Her qualifications are as a producer of the television soap opera 'The Bold and The Beautiful,' contributed 800,000 [dollars] to Obama in the last election and bundled more than $2.1 million for President Obama's re-election effort."
"I am not against political appointees ... I understand how the game is played, but here we are, a nation [Hungary] that is on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator getting in bed with Vladimir Putin and we're going to send the producer of 'The Bold and The Beautiful' as the ambassador," McCain continued. "I urge my colleagues to put a stop to this foolishness. I urge a no vote."
Barbara Boxer’s defense of her was typically pathetic:
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., defended Bell saying she is "intelligent," "successful," and "knows how to make friends."
"You would think this is the first time that any president nominated someone that's a political appointee. Just because somebody is a producer of a very popular show, that doesn't disqualify them. It's ridiculous," Boxer said on the Senate floor in response to McCain. "I could point out people you supported, senator, who perhaps didn't work at all, so let's be clear here. She's an intelligent woman. She knows how to be successful. She'll do a good job and she'll do very well I think in this position because I know her well and she knows how to make friends and she's not angry."
Poor Josh Earnest had to try to defend Bell. He did so badly (via Daniel Halper, The Weekly Standard):
I am fine with sending political appointees to minor countries with no real issues. Andorra, San Marino, and Luxembourg come to mind. But both Argentina and Hungary are significant countries, and they have serious issues ahead, politically and economically. President Obama has damaged our relations with them for political profit.