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Opinion

Hungary's slide to authoritarianism highlights risk of nominating bundlers as ambassadors

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,State Department,Foreign Policy,Charles Hoskinson,Ambassadors

The Obama administration lately has been complaining about the Senate's slow progress in confirming ambassadors, which Secretary of State John Kerry says means "we’re going without our strongest voice on the ground every day in more than 25 percent of the world."

One of those countries without an ambassador is Hungary, a NATO ally where Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently channeled Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he wanted to abandon liberal democracy. That's the kind of crisis situation that prompted the Obama administration to complain that Republicans in the Senate were hurting U.S. international relationships by holding up confirmation of the president's ambassadorial nominees.

So who's the tough, veteran diplomat President Obama has chosen to ensure Orban's new approach doesn't hurt U.S. interests?

Her name is Colleen Bell, and she's a Hollywood soap opera producer without a shred of apparent diplomatic experience. She got the job because she raised more than $500,000 in contributions for Obama's re-election campaign.

Bell is one of at least three rich bundlers Obama has chosen for key diplomatic posts whose embarrassing performance at their confirmation hearings triggered GOP opposition to confirming them.

If Obama wants Republican senators to give serious consideration to filling diplomatic posts in countries where U.S. interests are at risk, he should send serious candidates to the Senate and lay off passing them out as political perks.

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