The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 11

APRIL 2014
AFSA Chief-of-Mission
Guidelines Sound a
Note of Common Sense
n Feb. 25, when the issue of
“pay-to-play” ambassadors was
commanding media attention and stir-
ring public discussion of the American
tradition of appointing political ambas-
sadors, AFSA unveiled a set of guide-
lines for successful performance as a
chief of mission. Much of the media
coverage welcomed AFSA’s proposal as
a common-sense solution.
Please see AFSA News for the full
text of the “Guidelines for Successful
Performance as a Chief of Mission” and
the background to this initiative (p. 45).
Close scrutiny of ambassadorial
nominees kicks into high gear every
four years, at the beginning of each
presidential term. In the spring of 2013,
pundits and government watchers made
some noises as President Barack Obama
began naming the political ambassadors
for his second term. Having tracked
stated its concerns about the rise in
the number of political appointments
throughout 2013.
Public focus on the issue was set off
by the Senate Foreign Relations Com-
Norway, respectively, followed by the
to be ambassador to Argentina.
During the hearings, the unusually
blunt line of questioning from Senators
John McCain, R-Ariz., and Marco Rubio,
R-Fla., brought significant media atten-
tion to what many interpreted as bungled
answers to fairly basic inquiries.
As a result, some major media
outlets started asking questions about
these individuals’ qualifications. Noting
that all three were major bundlers of
campaign donations for the president,
between former Under Secretary of
State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns
and Bard College Professor Walter Rus-
sell Mead.
crop of political nominees “scrapings
from the bottom of the barrel.”
sadors can’t have set foot in the coun-
try they’re going to? Would it ruin the
In February alone, AFSA found 1,136
articles on the subject, including cover-
age from at least 31 foreign countries. The
media in Norway and Hungary have been
unusually attentive—hardly a surprise,
given that two of the three most contro-
versial nominees will
reside in Oslo and Buda-
pest should the Senate
confirm them.
After the official
rollout of the AFSA
association with seek-
ing to raise the bar on
tions of a good ambassador might be.
“embarrass-proof” future nominees.
On March 10, independent of the
AFSA Guidelines initiative, 15 former
AFSA presidents called on the U.S.
Senate to oppose confirmation of the
ambassadorial nominees to Hungary,
Argentina and Norway.
The group cited as their reason-
ing that these nominees “appear to
have been chosen on the basis of their
service in raising money for electoral
campaigns, with minimal demonstrated
qualifications for their posts, [which] has
subjected them to widespread public
ridicule, not only in the U.S. but also
They added: “Their effectiveness as
U.S. representatives therefore would be
severely impaired from the start.”
In addition, AFSA’s website—particu-
Brian Aggeler’s image
of the “pay-to-play”
ambassador is reprinted
from the November
, where it
illustrated a column by
Dennis Jett, “Psst! Hey,
Buddy, Wanna Buy an
Brian Aggelar
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