Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 8, 2014

Obama's disservice to diplomacy

Two Norwegian lawmakers have nominated Edward Snowden, the bete noire of U.S. intelligence, for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is quite possible that this is the Norwegians’ way of showing their displeasure and shame at having the Obama administration nominate a completely unqualified person to be its ambassador to Oslo.

The nominee, a Long Island campaign bundler named George Tsunis, made a fool of himself during his Senate confirmation hearings last month. He was unaware of some of the most basic facts about Norway. He admitted never having set foot in the country, and he seemed to think that Norway, a monarchy, has a president. He also had no idea which political parties constituted Norway’s governing coalition, even though, as ambassador, he would be dealing with them. It seemed, as some later tweeted, that Tsunis had not even bothered to read the Wikipedia page for Norway.

President Obama does a disservice to Norwegians, to himself and, above all, to the people of the United States by sending such an unqualified person to represent him and us in the capital of a long-standing NATO ally. (I wonder if Tsunis knows that Norway is a member of NATO and not the European Union.) Instead of goodwill, he is engendering anti-American sentiment. Norwegians are likely to conclude that all they are worth to Obama is about $1.3 million — the sum Tsunis bundled or contributed to Obama’s reelection campaign and other Democratic efforts in 2012.

The United States claims to value the efforts of diplomats — a point the president reiterated in his State of the Union speech last week. So why do so many seem to think that diplomacy is a profession that anyone can engage in? If you had a plumbing problem, would you call your friendly ambassador to fix it? What message is the president sending to Foreign Service officers and to former and current ambassadors of distinction?

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