When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went on The Daily Show back in January, she implied to Jon Stewart that if there is a money corruption problem in Congress (which she denied at first), it’s more of a problem for Republicans than Democrats. So Stewart did some (very minimal) digging, and found out that, well, Democrats seem to have a habit of trading favors for money, too.
Just take a look at President Barack Obama’s latest appointees for ambassadorships. In a segment titled “Diplomats Buyers Club” Stewart runs through recent confirmation hearings for Obama’s nominees. If Pelosi is correct in that Democrats don’t have a corruption problem, then “surely [Obama] chose them on their merits.” Right?
Take George Tsunis, the nominee for ambassador to Norway, for example. He’s at least been to Norway before, right? Nope. Stewart’s reaction: “OK, a little weird he’s never visited the country he’s going to be the ambassador to … but who really needs to go to Norway to understand it anyway?”
What about the nominee for ambassador to Argentina? “I haven’t had the opportunity to be [in Argentina] yet, I have traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven’t yet had a chance” to go to Argentina, Noah Mamet said. Sure, no need to go to the country you’ll be an ambassador to, as long as you’ve been somewhere.
Obama’s nominee to Iceland, Robert Barber, hasn’t “had the privilege yet” to go to the country, either. Of course.
“Is there a rule that ambassadors can’t have set in the country they’re going to ambassador? Would it ruin the surprise?” Stewart asks. How did these people even receive their nominations?
Oh, that’s right: money. It just so happens that Tsunis ($850,000), Mamet ($500,000), and Barber ($1.6 million) all did extensive fundraising for Obama’s reelection campaign. “That would mean not only would Democrats be seen as corrupt, [but] Nancy Pelosi told me personally that only Republicans are,” Stewart said.
Not all ambassadorships are given “to the highest bidder,” though. Former Sen. Max Baucus, the new ambassador to China didn’t do any fundraising for Obama, rather just some handy political favors, or as Stewart calls it, “you know, non-financial corruption.” But as a former Senator, perhaps he’s more qualified than those other guys. Wait – “I am no expert on China,” he said during his confirmation hearing.
Oh for Pete’s sake.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.