"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 ..."In response to gaffes like the above, the AFSA is writing up a list of qualifications for non-career ambassadors: including knowledge of what our strategic interests are.
Or what about having traveled to the country where they are about to be assigned? Not the case with several recent Obama appointees. Businessman George Tsunis has never been to Norway, Noah Bryson Mamet has never been to Argentina, Robert Barber has never been to Iceland. However, they all raised beaucoup bucks for Obama: Tsunis raised $850,000, Mamet $500,000 and Barber $1.6 million. Watch Jon Stewart poke fun at this corruption.
Not all political appointees are unqualified, however.
Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, doesn't have anything against political appointees: His father was one.
However, unlike some of the campaign "bundlers" — wealthy fund-raisers who bundle contributions from a variety of donors — getting nominations in the Obama administration, Neumann's father was a professor of international relations, who had traveled and written extensively about the Middle East before serving as ambassador to Afghanistan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
"He was an enormously competent appointee who served four presidents, three embassies and two parties, which is kind of unusual," Neumann says of his father. The two men used to joke that they "came into the foreign service together" — his father at the top and Neumann at the bottom.
Neumann believes all ambassadors need to be vetted.
"There is a law, which both parties ignore, about ambassadors needing to be qualified: the Foreign Service Act of 1980," "People still get through even if they are manifestly not qualified."Obviously no-one pays much attention to that law.