News Column

Rubio Wants Obama to Pull Ambassador Nominee

February 12, 2014

USA Today

marco rubio
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (Tim Loehrke, USA Today)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday called on the White House to withdraw the nomination of a political donor to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina, saying political and economic turmoil there demanded a career diplomat.

At a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Rubio had asked Democratic political consultant Noah Bryson Mamet if he had ever been to Argentina. "I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there," he responded, although he added, "I've traveled pretty extensively around the world."

On USA TODAY's Capital Download, Rubio said he hoped the administration would pull the nomination, perhaps designating Mamet for some less demanding post. If not, "we're going to see what procedural options we have left to slow down that process and call attention to it."

Under changes in Senate rules made last year, a senator can no longer block such a nomination outright. But Rubio's focus on Mamet's qualifications for a difficult diplomatic posting could create complications and embarrassment for the White House, already under fire for other ambassadorships given to political supporters.

"Every president has made political appointments of political allies and donors and so forth, and I understand that's still the case and in some instances that works well -- you know, if you're going to Malta or if you're going to the Bahamas," Rubio said. "But not every country can you send a political appointee to, and Argentina is one of those countries that we can't."

He noted that Argentina, one of the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world, is in the midst of an economic crisis, and that the regime has been cracking down on the news media and political opponents.

"Over the course of history, there have been many, many ambassadors who have come from outside the career path who have been very successful," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday when asked about the qualifications of several nominees, including Mamet. "There are many who have been very successful serving in these roles in countries around the world, and that's part of the reason why this will continue."

Obama has been more likely than his predecessors to name political supporters to ambassadorships. According to the American Foreign Service Association, 37% of his appointments have been political, compared with 30% by George W. Bush and 28% by Bill Clinton. The Center for Responsive Politics says 20 of the 39 political appointments during Obama's second term each had raised more than $500,000 for his 2012 campaign.

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Original headline: Rubio: Obama should pull nominee


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