Continued from page 1

Senators of both parties have reacted with disappointment and, sometimes, outright derision at the nominations of Mr. Tsunis and Mr. Mamet. When Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, pressed Mr. Mamet for his views on Argentina’s record on intellectual property rights, the befuddled candidate finally replied, “Let me get back to you on that.”

Mr. Patrick said there’s probably no lasting harm to U.S. foreign relations from ambassador nominees who might appear clueless about the countries where they’re preparing to serve. He said some political-appointee ambassadors are show horses rather than work horses.

“Much of the real work in these embassies is done by the deputy chief of mission, anyway,” Mr. Patrick said. “So the practical costs in terms of U.S. interests are marginal. But it doesn’t reflect well on the way we go about picking our senior diplomatic representatives in these countries.”

The president’s penchant for appointing cronies to work in Europe’s loveliest capitals prompted questions at the White House Wednesday about when Mr. Obama will nominate a new ambassador to France to replace Mr. Rivkin, who has been tapped for a job as an assistant secretary of state. Mr. Obama was hailing America’s crucial alliance with France this week during an official state visit by French President Francois Hollande.

Asked why Mr. Obama hasn’t chosen someone for the important ambassadorship in Paris, Mr. Carney deadpanned, “I’m still being vetted.”