Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Politics

Alliances

Argentina ambassador pick, and Obama bundler, has never been to Argentina

mamet_noah.jpg

Feb. 6, 2014: Noah Bryson Mamet, nominee to be ambassador to Argentina, speaks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Senate Foreign Relations Committee)

President Obama's foreign policy is again being questioned, only this time it's over the qualifications of the people he's appointed to carry it out. 

In the latest instance, the president's nominee to be America's next ambassador to Argentina admitted during a Senate hearing that he's never been to the country. 

"I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there," Noah Bryson Mamet, also an Obama political contributor, told lawmakers on Thursday. "I've traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven't yet had a chance." 

The admission was the latest awkward Capitol Hill moment for one of Obama's diplomatic nominees. Obama bundler George Tsunis, who was tapped for ambassador to Norway, recently bungled key facts about the Scandinavian country during his Senate hearing. 

On Thursday, Mamet was asked about his experience in Argentina by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. 

After Mamet said he'd never been there, Rubio said: "This is with all due respect. You have an impressive resume of work and so forth ... but ... I think this is a very significant post." 

Rubio went on to voice concerns about the current government in Argentina and what he described as its "anti-democratic direction" -- citing, in part, recent crackdowns on independent media. 

And Rubio challenged Mamet over whether Argentina is truly an ally of the United States, saying the country is aligning more with the likes of Venezuela. 

"In my perspective, they are an ally who we disagree with," Mamet said. The nominee did say he'd, if confirmed, seek to address the country's "protectionist policies." 

Like many diplomatic nominees spanning many administrations, Mamet's background is in politics and policy, rather than foreign service. 

He is the founder of political consulting firm Noah Mamet & Associates, and used to work for former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt. He also was a bundler for Obama and the Democratic Party in the 2012 cycle, collecting at least $500,000, according to OpenSecrets.org. 

He did serve as part of a delegation to monitor elections in Sierra Leone as part of the National Democratic Institute. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who spoke in support of the nominee on Thursday, said Mamet has a "deep understanding and appreciation of our nation's role in the world." 

But the fact he's never been to the country where he's being appointed shines a light on the nature of modern diplomatic appointments. Often, the high-profile posts go not to foreign service professionals but political donors and those otherwise connected to the administration in power. 

Obama's nominee to Norway, George Tsunis, had a few cringe-worthy moments during his hearing last month. During the hearing, he at one point referred to Norway's president, though the country is a constitutional monarchy -- with a ceremonial king, a prime minister, and a parliament, but no president. 

He also downplayed the important of the country's Progress Party but was sternly reminded by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that the party is part of the center-right coalition government there. 

"I stand corrected," Tsunis responded. 

Asked by a reporter on Friday about the credentials of Obama's diplomatic nominees, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they come from a range of backgrounds. 

"Our approach has continued to be approximately a 70/30 balance of career employees. So people have been working through the foreign service and serving around the world, building that level of experience, and then about 30 percent from outside the private sector," she said. "Over the course of history, there have been many, many ambassadors who have come from outside of the career paths who've been very successful." 

She added: "I would encourage people to give those who have had tougher hearings a chance to go to their countries and see what their tenure will entail. And the judgment can't be made about how effective they'll be or how appreciated they'll be by the government until we have that happen."