OUR OPINION: Drop Norway ambassador pick
Some 4.5 million people of Norwegian descent live in the United States.
And of these 4.5 million Norwegian-Americans, 55 percent live in the Midwest.
That’s why it’s utterly decisive that the entire Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota congressional delegations now have come out against the nomination of George Tsunis to be U.S. ambassador to Norway.
The lineup of critics now includes not only virtually every Republican in the Senate but also key Democrats, including Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Tim Johnson of South Dakota.
In the House, while Reps. Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison are both Minnesota Democrats, they’re far apart on the ideological spectrum. Peterson is thought of as one of the chamber’s most conservative Democrats and Ellison, one of its most liberal.
But here’s a key policy point on which both Peterson and Ellison agree: Tsunis should go. They share this view with Minnesota’s six other House members — three of them Democrats — and 26 other U.S. representatives, all of whom signed a recent letter to President Barack Obama that reads in part:
“Mr. President, we believe that you would serve the Norwegian-American community well by withdrawing Mr. Tsunis’ name and nominating somebody that will help our relationship (with Norway) continue to grow and thrive.”
As Herald readers know, Tsunis has three strikes against him. First, he owes his nomination to the fact that he was a “bundler” for Obama’s re-election campaign. OpenSecrets.org describes bundlers this way: “Bundlers are people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who’s willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big ‘bundle.’”
Second, while some fundraisers and other political cronies have special credentials or qualifications for ambassadorial posts, Tsunis has neither. Apart from a childhood visit, he has never even been to Norway.
Third and most important, Tsunis bungled his Senate confirmation hearing, showing an embarrassing ignorance about Norway and proving that he hadn’t bothered to fully prepare.
The details of that cringeworthy hearing have been repeated often enough. Suffice it to say that Jon Stewart ridiculed Tsunis’ performance, Norwegian newspapers used words like “faltering,” “insulting” and “jaw-dropping diplomatic blunder,” and Norwegians seeking comic relief reportedly have made video of the hearing go viral.
Then there’s this:
“In the wake of Russian aggression in the region, it’s important that we nominate a knowledgeable U.S. ambassador with a deep understanding of Norway’s culture and political system. … The answers provided by Mr. Tsunis clearly demonstrate that he is unqualified for this position and may damage an important international bond if confirmed.”
That, too, is from the bipartisan letter to the president signed by, among others, the Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota U.S. House delegations.
Enough. Obama has all kinds of pressing foreign-policy concerns. He needs to make clear-headed decisions that are in the U.S. national interest and also show responsiveness to public opinion. Here’s one.