From Josh Rogin of The Cable:
The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon.
A spokesperson for Sen. Sam Brownback, R-KS, confirmed to The Cable that his office has placed a hold on the nomination, which was reported out favorably by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. Brownback is preparing a letter now to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explaining the reasons for his objections.Read the whole thing here.
Brownback's office declined to specify the contents of the letter, but multiple GOP senate aides from other offices said that there was widespread support throughout the caucus for Brownback's position and that there was nothing specific the administration could do to convince Ricciardone's detractors to allow his nomination to proceed. If Brownback did release his hold, it's likely another one would surface soon after.
The controversy over the nomination is mired in the history of U.S. relations with several of the countries in which Ricciardone has served, including Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.
To his supporters, Ricciardone is a distinguished 34-year veteran of the Foreign Service who has taken on tough assignments in dangerous places on behalf of both Democratic and Republican administrations. To his critics, Ricciardone's record shows a pattern of being too close to the governments he is interacting with and too tepid on the mission to push values such as democracy and human rights with tyrannical regimes.
And here we are back to the challenge that career diplomats often face. As career diplomatic professionals they march to the orders that come down the Foggy Bottom pipe, and conduct foreign policy as dictated by the administration of the day. It does not matter whether it's a Republican or Democratic administration, or whether they personally agree with those policies or not, they carry those instructions, push those policies to its conclusions.
And yet, as hazy-political entities, diplomats are never fully trusted by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Mr. Ricciardone was political advisor to the U.S. and Turkish commanding generals of Operation Provide Comfort, based in Turkey and operating in Iraq. In October 1991, Iraqi troops were withdrawn from the Kurdish regions partly as a result of Western commitment to the Kurds, and these areas were able to assumed de facto independence. That should get you points, but apparently, not in the US Congress.
From 1991-93, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Amman. He would have worked at that time for career diplomat, Roger Gran Harrison, who was appointed Ambassador to Jordan in 1990 by 41st, also known as George H.W. Bush (1989-1993).
From 1995-99, Mr. Ricciardone was Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey (1995-99). He worked at that time for career diplomat, Marc Grossman who was appointed Ambassador to Turkey in 1994 by President Clinton, and Grossman's successor, career diplomat, Mark R. Parris in 1997, also appointed by President Clinton.
He was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Palau from 2002–2005 by President George W. Bush.
Then in July 2005, the Decider nominated Mr. Ricciardone as Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 29, 2005 and was sworn in on August 26, 2005. He went on to serve as Dubya's top representative in Egypt until 2008.
He is accused of "being too close to the governments he is interacting with" or for being "too tepid on the mission to push values such as democracy and human rights with tyrannical regimes." One commenter says, "Saying that he's going to be too close to the foreign governments he is working with is like saying a teacher is going to be too engaged with his/her students." Tee-hee!
In any case -- part of the diplomats' job is to be close to the government of the host country, so they are known and trusted, and can exert influence on behalf of the United States. How can you presume to influence the locals when you are a stranger? That's why they are sent overseas ... so they can learn, understand, interpret for our Government the foreigness of the host country. You know, if we don't want them to be close to the host country government, we should just keep them in Foggy Bottom and give them 4 x 4 cubicles and BlackBerries to play with. Maybe our diplomats and their local interlocutors can then meet in Second Life or some social networking site and negotiate agreements, have virtual cocktails, virtual handshakes and yadayadamo. Because heaven forbid if they get too close, they might become contaminated by foreign ideas that they may pass on to our government of the day. That would be a horrible, horrible way of doing this foreign business thingy. And you know, they might even speak a foreign language or two or three and that would be highly suspicious -- them using a foreign language instead of English, you know!
As to being too tepid, blah, blah, blah ..... Mr. Ricciardone worked for Condi Rice who was Secretary of State if you remember from 2005 –2009. Are you going to tell me that his work in Egypt was not approved by George W.'s Secretary of State? And by the way, is our current Ambassador there doing a better job with pushing for democratic values and human rights as we pour more aid into Hoshni Mubarak's country?
The Republican members of Congress who are posturing to impose a Senate hold on this nomination cannot have it both ways. This is just way too hilarious!
If Mr. Ricciardone did a bad job in Egypt when he was President Bush's top representative in that country, he should have been fired. Why was he not fired? Could it be that he did the job he was sent out to do? Think about it. Or if that's too hard, call Condi!
If Mr. Ricciardone went "rogue," and did not follow the instructions from the Bush Administration in dealing with the Mubarak Government (and he speaks Arabic, uh-oh!), he should have been fired. Why was he not fired? Were his superiors ignorant or über incompetent to know the difference?
Politics, my foot! Either this career diplomat did what he was sent out to do, or his superiors were incompetent. Take your pick, Mr. Brownback and company.
We should note that during the debate whether or not Ambassador Hill should be confirmed to go to Baghdad, some Republican members of Congress argued that Ambassador Hill had no Middle East experience, speaks no Arabic and is not the right man for the job. Now, we have a nominee with relevant regional and country experience, speaks Turkish, Arabic and a couple more, and he is also not the right man for the job? Ay, caramba! These politicians' arguments are enough to drive the cows mad!
The only good thing about this development? Yup! It looks like we're going to have a chance to watch Mr. Brownback with his flipcharts on the human rights on North Korea, once more. If you missed it the last time, this is must see tee-vee. But this also gives us an excuse to recall our Dr. Seuss-like ode to who else -- Sam-I-am.
Do you like senate holds and jams?
I do not like them,
I do not like senate holds and jams.
If you don't like senate holds and jams
Go email Sam, email Sam, stop the logjams!
That's it. Bow.