- - Monday, January 12, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In yet another example of disrespect to our allies, neither President Obama nor any member of his administration attended Sunday’s unity march in Paris. Instead, representing the United States was Obama campaign bundler, Jane Hartley, the newly appointed U. S. ambassador to France. While British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were among those who attended to show solidarity with France, Mr. Obama stayed home and instead, sent Ms. Hartley, a longtime Democratic Party donor who has raised more than $2 million for his presidential campaigns.

Ms. Hartley, an alumna of the Carter administration, and chief executive of the Observatory Group, an economic and political consulting firm, has been one of Mr. Obama’s most effective campaign fundraisers. According to The New York Times, Ms. Hartley raised more than $2.2 million for the president. After his election in 2008, she bundled $120,000 for the president’s 2009 inauguration, and then raised more than $1.3 million in 2011 and 2012 for the Obama re-election campaign. In September, 2011, Ms. Hartley and her husband, Ralph Schlosstein, hosted a $71,600-per-couple fundraising dinner in New York City for Mr. Obama in their Park Avenue home. In March, 2012, Ms. Hartley joined with other well-connected supporters of the president, including New Jersey investor Orin Kramer, who raised more than $2 million for Mr. Obama in 2011 and 2012, to host yet another New York City fundraiser for the president.

Nominated as ambassador to France in June 2014, Ms. Hartley became one of 29 bundlers for Mr. Obama who were rewarded with ambassadorships. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Mr. Obama’s 29 ambassador-bundlers have collectively raised more than $19.5 million for the president. In addition to these 29, who were mostly awarded assignments in Western Europe, the president named 34 political appointees and 77 career diplomats to the ambassador corps.

Despite the fact that she had no foreign service experience, her nomination was not nearly as controversial as the president’s nominee as ambassador of Norway — businessman bundler George Tsunis. Mr. Tsunis, who raised more than $1.3 million for the president’s re-election, had never even visited Norway and created a major embarrassment for the administration when he made several mistakes when appearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Ms. Hartley had an advantage over Mr. Tsunis — she and her husband had honeymooned in Paris.

Angry Norwegian-Americans mobilized to persuade their Midwestern senators to vote against Ms. Tsunis as ambassador to Norway and eventually he decided to withdraw his nomination. However, as the Los Angeles Times reported, “stumbles by ‘ambassadonors’ have played into a Republican narrative that the administration has been giving too many plum assignments to financial contributors.” Colleen Bradley Bell, ambassador to Hungary, was a producer of the CBS soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” who raised $2.1 million for Mr. Obama, and was unable to answer most questions about U.S. strategic interests in Hungary. Businessman Noah Bryson Mamet, ambassador to Argentina, had never been to Argentina and, according to the Los Angeles Times, “showed little knowledge of its workings in his confirmation hearing.” Caroline Kennedy, the current ambassador to Japan, had no background related to the country when she was chosen.

According to the American Foreign Service Association, Mr. Obama has given 41 percent of the ambassadorial posts during his second term to political friends, concluding: “Fundraisers generally prefer posts in tidy European countries or sunny Caribbean ones.” The Obama administration has sent fundraisers like Ms. Hartley to every one of the five Scandinavian countries. France has historically been one of the most coveted ambassadorial appointments — until this week’s Islamic terrorist attacks — and Ms. Hartley has risen to the occasion by representing the United States with grace and dignity. Still, France deserves more. Mr. Obama should have personally joined with other world leaders in Paris to show his respect for the people of France.

Anne Hendershott is professor of sociology and director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. She is the co-author of “Renewal” (Encounter Books, 2013).

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