On May 21st, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) cleared the following nominations:
Paul A. Folmsbee, of Oklahoma, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mali.
Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Costa Rica.
Charles C. Adams, Jr., of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Finland.
Mary Catherine Phee, of Illinois, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of South Sudan
The panel also cleared the nomination of Gentry Smith as Director of the Office of Foreign Mission and and Matthew McGuire for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Gentry O. Smith, of North Carolina, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service, vice Eric J. Boswell, resigned.
Matthew T. McGuire, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of two years, vice Ian Hoddy Solomon, term expired.
Nominations Placed on Secretary’s Desk
The following FS lists which include 621 nominees were also placed on the Secretary’s Desk. These are routine nomination lists, previously printed in the Congressional Record, placed on the Secretary’s desk for the information of Senators while awaiting floor action.
PN72 – 3 FOREIGN SERVICE nomination of Douglas A. Koneff, which was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of January 13, 2015.
PN259 FOREIGN SERVICE nomination of Judy R. Reinke, which was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of March 4, 2015.
PN260 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (56) beginning Brian C. Brisson, and ending Catherine M. Werner, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of March 4, 2015.
PN368 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (3) beginning Peter J. Olson, and ending Nicolas Rubio, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 15, 2015.
PN369 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (346) beginning Craig A. Anderson, and ending Henry Kaminski, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 15, 2015.
PN370 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (212) beginning Anthony S. Amatos, and ending Elena Zlatnik, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 15, 2015.
All one step closer to confirmation, but not quite there.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold confirmation hearings on May 20 for ambassadorial nominees for Kosovo, Georgia, Latvia, Sweden and Croatia.
The fellowship of the tortoise SFRC held confirmation hearings on March 10 (see Nominations), March 25 (see Nominations), and May 19 (see Nominations). So far, it had only cleared cleared 6 Foreign Service lists on March 26 (see Business Meeting); all were cleared by the full Senate on March 27. The SFRC is currently scheduled to take up 10 ambassadorial nominations and five FS lists on Thursday, May 21st.
Here’s what’s up for Wednesday, May 20:
Date: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 Time: 02:30 PM Location: Senate Dirksen 419 Presiding: Senator Johnson
The confirmation hearing video will be online here when available.
Of California, To Be Ambassador To The Kingdom Of Sweden
(see WH announcement of nomination dated October 23, 2014; political appointee, no Certificate of Competency posted on State Department website).
Retired SFSO David T. Jones, in the aftermath of a highly contentious 2009 election, wrote that “AFSA’s elections must return to diplomatic civility rather than channeling canines contending over hunks of meat.”
The 2011 election was tamed and supervised by the Department of Labor. The 2013 election was underwhelming with most positions uncontested. The 2015 election by contrast has two full slates with fairly recognizable candidates. But one only has to watch a couple of town halls meetings to recognize that this is the most polite campaign to-date. As if they were afraid to offend each other by asking real questions.
There are three candidates running for President of AFSA: Barbara Stephenson (Strong Diplomacy), Matthew Asada (Future Forward AFSA) and Tex Harris (no slate). Odd thing here is that Mr. Harris while running for president has also endorsed Mr. Asada.
On the May 6 campaign message, Ambassador Stephenson says this:
This election season, voters have a clear choice. If you are satisfied with what AFSA has been achieving for you, then there are two presidential candidates who represent that tradition. If, however, you want to see senior, experienced leaders and managers known for their interpersonal and negotiation skills work to achieve a more strategic set of outcomes, then please vote for the entire Strong Diplomacy slate.
Mr. Asada’s May 6 campaign message says:
Future Forward AFSA is running to ensure that AFSA remains an independent voice for the Foreign Service. Employees need an advocate that can collaborate with management to get things done, and challenge it when it strikes out in the wrong direction. AFSA was the first to sound the alarm about this bidding cycle’s “100 job deficit”.
Well, who else is supposed to sound the alarm, if not AFSA?
A SFSO deeply active in AFSA speaking on background says that he/she agrees that “there should not be personal attacks of any kind” but that there ought to be “a robust and spirited debates on the issues!” Candidates should be free to critique the current Board’s record, this AFSA fella told us, but that they should also elaborate what they would do differently. Which seems fair enough. If AFSA has set up an election forum, that should be put to excellent use in the last few weeks of this campaign.
We must say that it has not always been easy to get answers from AFSA in the last two years. There are a few pet peeves we’d like to throw in because we never got a satisfying response.
Indefinite Senate “Hold” on Rank and File Nominations
We remain concerned about the genesis of the Senate “hold” on ordinary non-ambassadorial ranked members of the Foreign Service. The hold has air quotes because our understanding is that some nominations are actually not officially put in for consideration but is in what we’d call “confirmation purgatory.” We have also asked about a few FSOs whose nominations have been stuck in the Senate confirmation process dating back to 2012. An AFSA insider who declined to be identified refers to the “mean-spiritedness” in the confirmation process. We have asked Mr. Asada directly about the eight nominations awhile back and received no response. Other folks we’ve asked were advised by AFSA not to talk to us about this. This is concerning because the blog Dead Men Working has been blogging up a storm about this issue since late last year. While we do not agree with everything DMW writes, that blog raises some troubling allegations that we think must be addressed.
There were two things we were hoping to see from AFSA: 1) work on strengthening the Foreign Service Act of 1980 through Congress, who is after all, tasked to provide “advice and consent”on ambassadorial nominees under the U.S. Constitution, and 2) work on the reinstatement of the OIG Inspector Evaluation Reports (IERs) to promote accountability and successful performance of our chiefs of missions overseas.
That did not happen, of course. At the time when this COM Guidelines was being massaged into a sausage, we’ve heard from a good number of AFSA members asking why this was “done in the dark” without informing the membership. A couple helpfully suggested that perhaps the USG should just auction off all these jobs every two years given that anyone can do the work. Well, what do you think about that auction?
AFSA’s Ambassador Statistics
We’ve seen the Obama political ambassador statistics at over 40% thrown about. The ft.com says 41% citing AFSA statistics on ambassadors. Roll Call repeated the number here on political ambassadorships. We sent a note to AFSA citing the questions on Twitter re: ambo stats, specifically the accuracy of the % cited and if it has any comment. We never got a response.
Blog pal @Philip Arsenault has done a lot of good work using presidential records to track the ambassadorial appointees going back to the Eisenhower Era. He was not able to replicate the 41% Obama political ambassadorships attributed to AFSA. It looks like AFSA counts every International Organization (IO) ambassadors for Obama but has sparse info for every other president. Since IO has the highest number of pol appointees, this could easily skew the numbers for President Obama. If AFSA is counting IO appointees for the Obama tenure, it should also count the IO appointees for all other presidents. Fairness requires that. If it is unable to account for those IO appointees from other presidents, it should ditch the Obama numbers in the counting or if they have to use to IO data, it must be clearly noted as such.
Also if AFSA is counting CDAs as ambassadors even when those are not Senate confirmed appointees, this could mess up with the numbers. As an example of this, take a look at AFSA’s list for President Reagan’s ambassadors to Ethiopia from 1982-1991 (Reagan was in office from January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989). All three — Korn, Cheek, Houdek — are listed as career appointees. They are but there’s a problem.
According to history.state.gov, these diplomats were appointed as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim; they were not nominated by President Reagan, and they were not confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Screen capture from history.state.gov
Once Philip brought his concern to our attention, we stopped using AFSA’s numbers. As of this writing, the AFSA Ambassador Tracker indicates that President Obama’s political ambassador appointees for the second term is down from the reported 41% to 35.9%, still higher than Philip’s number which is 32.9%. We trust Philip’s data more because when there are questions, he is responsive, when there’s an error, he is quick to fix it. With AFSA, we got nothing but radio silence and we don’t see how we could rely on those numbers until they’re properly scrubbed.
Depending on where you’re sitting, the following could mean something or not, worth a discussion at the election forum or not:
AFSA told us, “We do not publish election statistics on the AFSA website, nor do we provide that information to anonymous sources.” Again we’re asking — what legitimate reason is there for the election statistics of the labor union of the United States Foreign Service not to be public record or at the minimum, available to its membership? Shouldn’t AFSA members learn what kind of turnouts they have every election? Wouldn’t drilling down the numbers help with voter engagement?
A number of Foreign Service Grievance Board cases are “settled” or withdrawn. We understand that a confidentiality clause governs these cases. But when the Department “settles” these cases, how come the redacted complaint and the terms of the settlement are not made available by AFSA to its members for analysis?
Do you know that Department employees who take the CIA’s polygraph examination for detail assignments will have the results of their polygraph provided to DS and HR for security clearance and assignment purposes? A source told us that “In and of itself, it does no harm if the CIA retains them for its clearance purposes, but it can have an unanticipated negative impact when indiscriminately released by the CIA to third parties, like DS and HR, who use them in violation of the CIA’s restrictions to the Department and assurances to the examinees.” If this affects only a fraction of the Foreign Service, is that an excuse not to do anything about it, or at a minimum, provide an alert to employees contemplating these detail assignments?
An elected AFSA representative participated in the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund in 2014. An AFSA member asked this blog why? The Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential North American and European political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. Participants include heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. Cabinet officials, Congressional representatives, Parliamentarians, academics, and media. We think the “why” question is a fair and legitimate question unless non-union fees were used for this participation. Folks, stop sending us these “why” questions here. Every elected representative at AFSA should be willing and available to answer the why questions.
Assignments are typically handed out a year before folks have their rotation/change of station. What’s this we’re hearing about 300 unassigned Foreign Service employees at the end of April? What’s being done about it?
Okay, there’s an indifferent Foreign Service majority but …
Mr. Jones wrote that very few AFSA members vote in Governing Board elections … “The essential conclusion must be that AFSA members regard the effect on their lives as so ancillary and/or the consequences from AFSA efforts so ineffectual that voting was not worth the few minutes to review candidates/platforms (or the cost of postage to return the ballot).”
Or email ballot.
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: What these elections show is that even if only 22% of the membership cast their ballots every two years, AFSA still operates as the professional association and recognized labor union of 100% of its Foreign Service members. In essence, the priorities of 1/5 of its membership, the minority who actually votes, becomes the priorities for all, including the majority who doesn’t.
Think about that. Even if a large number of members opt out by not voting, AFSA still functions on the Foreign Service’s behalf. Shouldn’t FS members at least make an effort to pick who gets to represent them?
We are paying attention to this election but for the record, we do not vote; we just sit on the wall and watch. We do have two wishes. There are already rumors that this could potentially be another contested election. So first, we really hope that the candidates do not go there. Following the 2009 election, the AFSA election turn out dipped dangerously down to 17%. Another contested election could potentially turn off the already small number of voters. And if that happens, we would not blame them at all.
Second, we hope that whoever gets elected as the next Governing Board would endeavor to be more open and responsive to questions. Even if those questions occasionally come from unusual quarters like ours.
Note: Please note that the comments section is purposely disabled for this blogpost. We hope AFSA provides an election forum for the members interested on the issues. If not, check out Strong Diplomacy and Future Forward AFSA, Ask questions. Start a discussion. Be ever present. Vote. Then get your friends to vote.
The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on State Department management, operations and development held a hearing on April 21 with OIG Steve Linick on the efficiency and effectiveness of State Department operations.
The video is also available here. Or you can watch here via the SFRC.
Only two senators stayed for the duration of the entire hearing, Senator Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia [D] and Senator David Perdue of Georgia [R] . It’s quite a change from watching other congressional hearings. No one was angry or hysterical. No one was tearing up. The senators seem genuinely interested in hearing what Inspector General Linick had to say. They ask informed, thoughtful questions and follow-up questions. Both have also been hosted overseas during a CODEL or two and have complimentary things to say about the men and women of our diplomatic service.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin [R] did sit down but just long enough to ask and rail about Benghazi. Senator Chris S. Murphy of Connecticut D] also came in to question the IG about BBG operations. It sounds like he has a lot of concerns about BBG and is working on efforts to shore up the long floundering red headed step child of global engagement.
IG Linick brought up two main challenges during the hearing, one on the OIG’s IT vulnerability and the other, its interest on getting first dibs when it comes to allegations of criminal or serious administrative misconduct by Department employees. Not “M”, not Diplomatic Security, but for the OIG to get right of first refusal on criminal allegations in the State Department.
Inspector Linick also asked for a flexible hiring authority so the OIG is able to hire retired FS employees and former SIGAR employees. These individuals have the experience OIG needs but they face restrictions under the current hiring authority. We hope he gets it.
We strongly support these asks by the OIG. The first, because it makes sense. The second, because it’s long overdue. It will remove the “it depends” mantra over in the Big House. For the OIG to have real oversight, it should have the right to decide whether to conduct the investigations themselves or not. That decision should not be left to State Department management. The OIG has already requested that the Department revise its current directives on this, but it doesn’t look like anything happened yet. We would like to see Congress include this in the State Department congressional authorization.
IG Linick’s prepared testimony is here (pdf). Below is an excerpt:
OIG Network Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities in the Department’s unclassified network directly affect OIG’s IT infrastructure, which is part of the same network. We noted in our November 2013 Management Alert on information security that there are thousands of administrators who have access to the Department’s computer network. That access runs freely throughout OIG’s IT infrastructure and increases risk to OIG operations. For example, a large number of Department administrators have the ability to read, modify, or delete any information on OIG’s network including sensitive investigative information and email traffic, without OIG’s knowledge.17 OIG has no evidence that administrators have compromised OIG’s network. At the same time, had OIG’s network been compromised, we likely would not know. The fact that the contents of our unclassified network may be easily accessed and potentially compromised places our independence at unnecessary risk and does not reflect best practices within the IG community. OIG seeks to transition to an independently managed information system, which will require the Department’s cooperation and support from Congress.
A footnote on his prepared statement says that DS and the Bureau of Information Resource Management (State/IRM) recently agreed to notify and receive confirmation from OIG prior to accessing OIG systems in “most circumstances. ”
Right of First Refusal To Investigate Allegations of Criminal or Other Serious Misconduct
Unlike other OIGs, my office is not always afforded the opportunity to investigate allegations of criminal or serious administrative misconduct by Department employees. Department components, including DS, are not required to notify OIG of such allegations that come to their attention. For example, current Department rules provide that certain allegations against chiefs of mission shall be referred for investigation to OIG or DS. However, that guidance further states that “[in] exceptional circumstances, the Under Secretary for Management may designate an individual or individuals to conduct the investigation.”19 Thus, DS or the Under Secretary may initiate an investigation without notifying us or giving us the opportunity to evaluate the matter independently and become involved, if appropriate. Accordingly, OIG cannot undertake effective, independent assessments and investigations of these matters as envisioned by the IG Act.
The directives establishing this arrangement appear to be unique to the Department. By contrast, the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, the Treasury (and the IRS), and Agriculture, all of which had within them significant law enforcement entities prior to the establishment of their respective offices of Inspector General (OIG), defer to their OIGs for the investigation of criminal or serious administrative misconduct by their employees or with respect to their programs. Notice must be provided by all agency components to their respective OIGs of, at a minimum, allegations of misconduct by senior employees. In some agencies, notice must be provided of such allegations with respect to all employees. The respective OIGs have the right to decide whether to conduct investigations themselves or refer matters back to the relevant agency component for investigation or other action. However, in some cases, when requested by OIG to do so, the relevant agency component to which the OIG referred back the matter must report to the OIGs on the progress or the outcome of investigations.
Particularly where senior officials are involved, the failure to refer allegations of misconduct to an independent entity like OIG necessarily creates a perception of unfairness, as management is seen to be, as the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes, “investigating itself.”*
This risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department. Moreover, this arrangement prevents OIG from carrying out its clear statutory duty, set forth in the IG Act, “to provide policy direction for and to conduct, supervise, and coordinate … investigations relating to the programs and operations” of the Department.
Accordingly, we are seeking legislative support—similar to that provided to other OIGs—for early notification to OIG of allegations of certain types of misconduct. In addition, OIG is seeking legislative clarification of its right to investigate such allegations.23 Current Department directives are a barrier to achieving accountable and transparent government operations.
Here is another footnote:
GAO, Inspectors General: Activities of the Department of State Office of Inspector General at 25-26. (GAO- 07-138, March 2007) ([B]ecause DS reports to the State Department’s Undersecretary [sic] for Management, DS investigations of department employees, especially when management officials are the subjects of the allegations, can result in management investigating itself.”); see also OIG’s Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-15-01, October 2014) (Department policies and procedures appear to have significant implications and created an appearance of undue influence and favoritism, which undermines public confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders).
Today, a federal grand jury indicted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on corruption charges. According to the WSJ, Mr. Menendez, 61 years old, has said “he didn’t do anything wrong and plans to fight the charges.” The indictment is the culmination of a lengthy inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the relationship between the New Jersey senator and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.” Wait, can you use constituent services as defense if the constituent lives in another state?
New Jersey editorials have now called on the senator to resign. Media reports says that he will step down as ranking member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) because of the indictment. The good senator from New Jersey is reportedly “outraged” by the indictment. He condemned the corruption case against him saying, “I am not going anywhere… I’m angry and ready to fight.” And he is, by god!
We’ve read through the indictment. We have excerpted the parts below that include the visas for girlfriends initiative (Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ukraine), the back and forth with Consular Affairs, the visa refusals that were overturned, and the back and forth with the INL bureau on a port contract.
The names of the State Department officials are not included, but the indictment includes the offices at the State Department that were the receiving end of the senator’s attention and advocacy: DAS for Visas Services, Embassy Santo Domingo and the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
There’s also this nugget:
State 2 to Staffer 8 writes:
If H is in the room — best if the good senator from New Jersey doesn’t mention the prior private meeting they had.
Hey, that’s H, the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs whose job is to “facilitates effective communication between State Department officials and the Members of Congress and their staffs.” Whatsthatabout?
After another lengthy wait, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed the promotion of 374 Foreign Service officers on March 27, 2015. The Senate is now adjourned until April 13, 2015 where the wait for several more ambassadorial and regular FS nominees will presumably continue with no end in sight.
Nominations beginning Joyce A. Barr, and ending Nancy E. McEldowney, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015. The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service to the class indicated: Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister:
The Foreign Service promotion list typically comes out in the fall. It looks like last year’s list was stuck in the Senate in 2014, and was resubmitted on January 13, 2015 to the 114th Congress. To-date, 181 names on this list are still stuck in the Committee on Foreign Relations (There are other names pending in committee under different lists, see all here). It also appears that one name on this list has been on ice at the SFRC since 2012. That’s right, 2012 — the year of the Arab Spring, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the year when Curiosity, the rover landed on Mars. What’s going on here?
List of Nominees:
The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion into and within the Senior Foreign Service to the classes indicated: Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor:
Gregory Adams, of VA
Larry Edward Andre, Jr., of TX
Elizabeth Moore Aubin, of MD
Charles Edward Bennett, of WA
Gloria F. Berbena, of CA
Rena Bitter, of DC
Charles Kevin Blackstone, of FL
James A. Boughner, of WA
Michael B. Bretz, of VA
Duane Clemens Butcher, Jr., of VA
William Brent Christensen, of VA
Sandra Eliane Clark, of VA
Mark J. Davidson, of DC
John Paul Desrocher, of DC
Benjamin Beardsley Dille, of MN
Bruce E. Donahue, of VA
William H. Duncan, of TX
John Martin Eustace, Jr., of VA
Christopher Fitzgerald, of IA
Lawrence W. Gernon, of TX
Thomas B. Gibbons, of VA
William Kevin Grant, of VA
Kristin M. Hagerstrom, of LA
Matthew Tracy Harrington, of GA
Brent R. Hartley, of MD
Debra P. Heien, of HI
Simon Henshaw, of VA
Christopher Paul Henzel, of NY
L. Victor Hurtado, of CO
Makila James, of DC
Kathy A. Johnson, of TX
Patricia K. Kabra, of DC
Steven B. Kashkett, of FL
Glen C. Keiser, of CA
Laura Jean Kirkconnell, of FL
John M. Kuschner, of NH
Patricia A. Lacina, of CA
Alexander Mark Laskaris, of MD
Timothy Lenderking, of DC
Earle D. Litzenberger, of CA
Naomi Emerson Lyew, of VA
Matthew John Matthews, of VA
Michael McCarthy, of VA
Elisabeth Inga Millard, of VA
Judith A. Moon, of VA
Richard Walter Nelson, of CA
Hilary S. Olsin-Windecker, of NY
Joseph S. Pennington, of FL
Ann E. Pforzheimer, of NY
H. Dean Pittman, of DC
Joan Polaschik, of VA
Joseph M. Pomper, of CT
Michael A. Ratney, of MA
Thomas G. Rogan, of NH
Christopher John Rowan, of PA
Eric N. Rumpf, of WA
Michael R. Schimmel, of MI
Jeffrey R. Sexton, of FL
Lawrence Robert Silverman, of VA
Susan N. Stevenson, of VA
Kevin King Sullivan, of VA
Lynne M. Tracy, of OH
Bruce Irvin Turner, of FL
Conrad William Turner, of VA
Karen L. Williams, of FL
Brian William Wilson, of WA
Charles E. Wright, of CA
Hoyt B. Yee, of CA
Last week, opponents of the Tsunis nomination rolled out a new social media campaign to sink his nomination. We did not see it until we got poked on Twitter today. Tom Lundquist who started the original petition asking President Obama to withdraw the nomination posted the following on change.org:
Today looks to have been the first full day of starting out with a never-before-tried social media campaign in this effort to have George Tsunis withdrawn or defeated. An integrated Twitter, Facebook, and Web campaign have been launched!
On its website, the group listed several reasons why they opposed the Tsunis nomination including the following:
Perception of American Incompetence and Arrogance Abroad:
America’s foreign image hasn’t been the best over the last decade or so. Let’s not make it worse. George Tsunis’ wildly inaccurate statements of fact, diplomatic outrages, and lack of qualifications offended a number of Norwegian officials and Members of Parliament, including the mayor of Norway’s capitol city who made it clear that President Obama should send a far more knowledgeable and qualified person. To send Tsunis to Norway would be a fist in the face of a key ally – and an arrogant message to the world. Norway is a vital member of NATO, a key supplier of energy to the EU, an important player in peace efforts in the Middle East, and a strong U.S. ally everywhere. With rising tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East the U.S. has to take its diplomacy seriously and treat key allies with respect.
The website also listed the names of four Senators who already made their opposition to the Tsunis nomination known, calling them, Senate Heroes. As well, under the section “Money Bound,” the group listed the names of 9 Senators who were recipients of donations from Mr. Tsunis, urging supporters to email/call the senators and their aides. Check out the Senators Living Dangerously, the Silent Senators, and Our Party’s (Apparent) Worst Enemies. The website also includes the well-circulated clips from Anderson Cooper and the Daily Show.
The group suggests a series of questions constituents should ask their congressional representatives noting that “Until a Senator comes out publicly against the absolute most inane, unqualified nomination the Senate has perhaps yet ever seen, tacit support of Tsunis – and the damage it is doing to our Party and democracy – must be challenged.”
It also adds a carrot for the rabbits in the Senate, “By the Senator making a public commitment to vote against the Tsunis nomination, the Senator’s page here will be removed from this website and the Senator will be promptly added to The Principled Heroes list for all constituents to see.”
Given the many challenges facing our country these days, we don’t think the White House appreciates this new kind of headache. I mean, who would? But we also suspect that it would not withdraw the nomination on its own. Once it nominated Mr. Tsunis, the WH is bound to stand by its nominee. The only way we think the WH would withdraw this nomination is if Mr. Tsunis , himself, withdraws his name from consideration. That might be the most prudent action for Mr. Tsunis to do here. That would give President Obama a fresh start.