President Barack Obama is on track to set a record for the number of big political donors, money-raisers and political allies nominated for ambassadorships, according to a diplomats union.
The American Foreign Service Association said that after his first six years, Obama has filled or nominated 131 ambassadorial posts not to people with foreign service experience but to political allies. That’s just four fewer political allies than President George W. Bush nominated to ambassadorships in eight years and 14 more than President Bill Clinton nominated over his two terms, the Washington Post reported.
It looks worse for Obama when the diplomat group calculates the percentage of ambassadors with zero prior diplomatic experience: More than one-third of Obama's nominees, 34.8 percent, were either donors or otherwise lacked any foreign service experience. Percentages for his two immediate predecessors were about even —29.8 percent for Bush and 28.06 percent for Clinton, according to the diplomat group.
The matter gained visibility when Noah Mamet, who bundled $500,000 for Obama, was nominated to be the ambassador to Argentina, a country he had never visited before. Colleen Bradley Bell, who bundled $800,000 for Obama, was nominated to be ambassador to Hungary. Both were confirmed by the Senate, but not without controversy.
In a January 2009 news conference, Obama said: “And so, you know, my expectation is that high quality civil servants are going to be rewarded. You know, are there going to be political appointees to ambassadorships? There probably will be some.”