The Morning Jolt

Sure, Now the Country Needs Qualified Ambassadors in Foreign Capitals

In today’s New York Times, Walter Mondale suggests that somehow our national security is being impeded because of . . . the Senate not confirming President Obama’s ambassadorial nominees quickly enough:

As the last year has demonstrated, America’s struggle to defend its national interests cannot be won by military force alone. Even as the campaigns against the Islamic State and the Taliban have faltered, American diplomats have made remarkable progress across a number of fronts, from climate change to checking Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Such success depends on making common cause with our allies, an effort led by America’s ambassadors. And yet, thanks to Senate politics, dozens of ambassadorial nominations have been delayed unnecessarily. At one point in 2014, nearly a quarter of the world’s countries lacked an American ambassador, and even today, despite some efforts to approve candidates, a dozen nominations have not received congressional action — including nominees to represent the United States in strategically vital countries like Mexico, Norway, and Sweden.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. If ambassadorial positions are so utterly important to the national interest, then presidents can’t go around handing them out to big-time donors like prizes from a box of Cracker Jacks.

Mondale fumes, “I am particularly concerned about the vacancy in Norway, now going on for more than two years. I care deeply about Norway, where my family originated before immigrating to Minnesota, along with thousands of others.”

Really? Because I seem to recall one of the president’s most egregious ambassadorial nominees being the pick for Norway:

When hotel magnate George Tsunis, Obama’s nominee for Oslo, met with the Senate last month, he made clear that he didn’t know that Norway was a constitutional monarchy and wrongly stated that one of the ruling coalition political parties was a hate-spewing “fringe element.”

This was part of a continuing pattern:

A soap-opera producer slated for Hungary appeared to have little knowledge of the country she would be living in. A prominent Obama bundler nominated to be ambassador to Argentina acknowledged that he had never set foot in the country and isn’t fluent in Spanish.

Even former senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the new U.S. ambassador in Beijing, managed to raise eyebrows during his confirmation hearing by acknowledging, “I’m no real expert on China.”

And let’s derail the inevitable “all presidents do it!” excuse-making by pointing out that Obama denounced Bush for this practice, promised to limit it, and starting in his second term, did it more frequently than his predecessors:

President Obama — who entered office promising to limit the practice and instead appoint more Foreign Service professionals to ambassadorial positions — has arguably done more to exacerbate the problem than his recent predecessors. His second-term appointments have gone to political allies more than half of the time. Since World War II, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, that number has been lower: About a third of the ambassador posts have been offered to non-professional diplomats.

Mondale concludes, “The national interest, particularly America’s national security interest, requires that an ambassador be on the job in Norway and elsewhere.” But apparently we don’t really need a good one.

Rahm Emanuel, Stranded in Cuba as His Deputy Gets Assaulted

Yesterday I called Al Sharpton’s call for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation over a police shooting the “perfect Obama-era scandal.” It showcases Obama’s hometown, home of some of the country’s strictest gun-control laws, plagued by 2,937 shootings in the past year, about 350 more than the previous year; an entirely Democrat-controlled political system that engages in cover-ups and a culture of unaccountability; and a microcosm of African Americans, the most loyal demographic to the Democratic Party, feeling victimized and disregarded by leaders they eagerly elected and reelected. Elitism, double standards, runaway state power, incendiary agitation, racial tensions — it’s all here.

Now we see Chicago’s looking even more chaotic than usual:

One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s deputy chiefs of staff was attacked Sunday evening while attending a vigil for Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier, who were fatally shot by Chicago Police in West Garfield Park on Saturday.

According to a source, Vance Henry was attending the vigil about 5:50 p.m. at the site of the shooting in the 4700 block of West Erie when he was attacked.

The police department’s Office of News Affairs confirmed that a 50-year-old man was at the vigil when “he was approached by an unknown person who began to make verbal threats which escalated to a physical altercation.”

The man was punched with a closed fist, tackled to the ground and kicked repeatedly, according to police. He went to Rush University Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

In an emailed statement Monday night, City Hall spokesman Adam Collins said: “We are aware that on Sunday afternoon there was an altercation involving one of our staff members. We take this matter very seriously and the incident is under review.”

No wonder Emanuel’s on his way back from Cuba!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is cutting short his family vacation in Cuba and will return to Chicago on Tuesday to deal with the latest crisis involving the city’s Police Department.

Early Saturday, police shot and killed two people on the West Side — Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and his neighbor, Bettie Jones, 55.

A City Hall spokesman said Monday that Emanuel left Chicago on Dec. 18 and was due to return at the end of this week.

Take a moment to savor this irony:

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Emanuel was in effect stranded in Cuba and could not leave immediately after the shootings because there is no regularly scheduled air service. U.S. airlines run only charter flights to the island.

Compounding that, a source said, Emanuel was in a rural part of the country for the past couple of days. Emanuel had been scheduled to return to Chicago at the end of this week.

It is believed that Emanuel was on his way back to Havana on Monday afternoon. He was in constant contact with advisers via phone and text, despite sometimes shaky connections.

Hey, just thinking out loud, if you’re the mayor of a major city that’s on edge because of a big cover-up by your police department and questions about what you knew, maybe you shouldn’t schedule a two-week vacation at a destination that doesn’t include regular return flights?

Could you imagine if there had been, say, an ISIS attack on Christmas and Emanuel was stranded in Cuba?

Presuming you intend to come back, of course . . .

Don’t Call It a Comeback, Al-Qaeda’s Been Here for Years

I am so damn tired of this president telling us all is well, and offering this mealy-mouthed excuse that because Islamists can’t destroy the United States, the threat is under control:

“This is not an organization that can destroy the United States,” Obama said. “This is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way.”

But you don’t need to be a huge industrial power to pose a great risk to the American people. “Destroying the United States” is a really high bar. The 9/11 attacks didn’t destroy the United States, but they killed about 3,000 people, injured about 6,000 more, did $10 billion in damage, imposed, by some estimates, more than $3 trillion in costs to the United States and reportedly 3,700 9/11 responders with cancer.

Obama spent the final month of the 2012 campaign assuring us, “al-Qaeda is on the run” — after the Benghazi attack, of course.

And now we learn al-Qaeda has reestablished terrorist training camps in Afghanistan:

Even as the Obama administration scrambles to confront the Islamic State and resurgent Taliban, an old enemy seems to be reappearing in Afghanistan: Qaeda training camps are sprouting up there, forcing the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies to assess whether they could again become a breeding ground for attacks on the United States.

Most of the handful of camps are not as big as those that Osama bin Laden built before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But had they re-emerged several years ago, they would have rocketed to the top of potential threats presented to President Obama in his daily intelligence briefing. Now, they are just one of many — and perhaps, American officials say, not even the most urgent on the Pentagon’s list in Afghanistan.

The scope of Al Qaeda’s deadly resilience in Afghanistan appears to have caught American and Afghan officials by surprise. Until this fall, American officials had largely focused on targeting the last remaining senior Qaeda leaders hiding along Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous border with Pakistan.

At least in public, the administration has said little about the new challenge or its strategy for confronting the threat from Al Qaeda, even as it rushes to help the Afghan government confront what has been viewed as the more imminent threat, the surge in violent attacks from the Taliban, the Haqqani network and a new offshoot of the Islamic State.

Boy, there’s a shock.

Former administration officials have been more outspoken — especially those who were on the front lines of the original battle to destroy Al Qaeda’s central leadership.

“I do worry about the rebirth of AQ in Afghanistan because of what their target list will be — us,” said Michael Morell, the deputy director of the C.I.A. until two years ago, whose book, “The Great War of Our Time,” recounts the efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations to destroy the Qaeda leadership.

ADDENDA: Didn’t see this coming: The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus concludes, “In the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the multiple offensive things Trump has said.”

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