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State Department: You won't know if Obama's campaign bundler is a qualified ambassador until he's in the job

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,State Department,Argentina

Does President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Argentina, a campaign bundler who has never visited the country, even speak Spanish? The State Department doesn't know.

"I don't have his personal biography in front of me, but what I will convey is that ... judging somebody's effectiveness, or what role they'll play, or how strong of an ambassador they'll be — you can't do [that] until they've spent some time working in the job in the country," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki replied when asked by ABC's Jon Karl if Noah Mamet, whose nomination to the crucial diplomatic post was considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, speaks Spanish.

In other words, you have to confirm the ambassador to Argentina to know what's in the ambassador to Argentina.

The Buenos Aires Herald, when reporting on Mamet's nomination in August, described him as "a veteran Democratic fund-raiser and consultant who has no evident experience with Latin American issues."

If confirmed, Mamet, the second political nominee from Obama after nearly 30 years of professional representation in Buenos Aires under previous presidents, would take his post at a critical time. Argentina's economy is in crisis and its relations with the United States need a lot of care. Meanwhile, there's a perception in Latin America that Obama does not care about the region, and this nomination won't help change minds on that issue.

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