Monday, March 3, 2014

Bulletins From BA #24

Bulletins From BA #24
03 marzo 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

[Rant Alert - Opinions expressed herein are fully half-baked and entirely my own.]

The U.S. mission in Buenos Aires has been without an ambassador since the 4th of July - eight months. Considering that Argentina is one of the largest nations, both geographically and economically, in Latin America, this seems an immoderately long interval. To the surprise of approximately no one, the fault lies squarely with the U. S. Congress.

President Obama nominated David Mamet, a political appointee (and campaign fundraiser), to the position on 01 August 2013. But since Congress apparently (a) had more important work to attend to (e.g., shutting down the government), and (b) doesn’t give a culo de una rata about Argentina anyway, Mamet did not receive his hearing until 07 February 2014 - six months later. At the moment, no one seems to know when his nomination will finally come up for a Senate vote. Fortunately, in the interim, our dauntless Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) has assumed the duties of Chargé d'affaires, and matters of state continue to be dealt with in reasonable order.

There is no doubt an important discussion to be had concerning ambassadorial appointments and the appropriate balance between career Foreign Service Officers and political appointees. Anne and I have previously served with ambassadors from each category, women and men who filled their roles capably. And yet, at the recently concluded Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the principle objection advanced by Senators Menendez (D-Contrary) and Rubio (R-Lackey) was that Mr. Mamet has never actually visited Argentina.

What posturing nonsense. Visitation may well be a plus, but if it is to be a requisite criterion, the President might theoretically be better served by nominating one of the several Congresscritters who routinely engage in junkets here, conducting “official business” on the taxpayers’ dime. For although reactionary legislators and the courtier media seem inclined to portray Argentina as an authoritarian, anti-capitalist hellscape on the road to perdition in the company of Venezuela and Cuba, the fact is that, for all its frustrations, challenges, and shortcomings (admittedly considerable), Argentina is a perfectly decent place to visit and live.

[Sidebar - As long as we’re on the subject, I submit that it takes a lot of damned gall for members (especially GOP) of the most feckless, unproductive, and disrespected Congress in U.S. history to presume to lecture anyone concerning sound economic policy or good governance.]

But back to the matter at hand. My crackerjack opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the next ambassador to Argentina should meet these minimal qualifications:

- Speak at least tolerably fluent español
- Be a good listener and a quick study
- Evince an affinity for schmoozing

And if he/she has heretofore managed to visit the country, excelente. If not, no hay problema. We’ll be happy to show ‘em around.

Gracias por su indulgencia. ¡Adelante!


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