Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 20, 2014

Obama's mortifying embrace of checkbook diplomacy

(Continued)

When Obama’s appointee to Argentina, Noah Bryson Mamet, was asked by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio if he’d ever been there, he said he hadn’t had the chance. Jon Stewart asked on “The Daily Show” if there was a rule against having an ambassador set foot in the country before being appointed so as not to “ruin the surprise.”

The openness with which this practice takes place belies how crude and coarse an exchange it really is. Obama isn’t criticized for appointing so many lightweights. He’s criticized for exceeding the informal quota of 30 percent.

In an earlier age, Congress acted against a reckless spoils system. In the 19th century, generals were chosen like ambassadors, not for their competence but by patronage. When Daniel Sickles — known as “the amateur” — cost the Union 4,000 casualties at Gettysburg, Congress outlawed the system.

With the ambassadorships, no one’s died so far, not even from embarrassment.

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