- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NOTHING PERSONAL

As a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Venezuela, knows that Latin Americans get worried when new American presidents take too long to appoint new ambassadors to their region.

Some take the delays as snubs of their countries. Others worry that the White House is sending diplomatic signals of displeasure. Others think Washington just doesn't care about its southern neighbors.

However, Mr. Davidow knows better. It is mostly a matter of bureaucratic red tape in the U.S. capital.

“It is not unusual, especially when … the White House changes, that many ambassadorial posts go unfilled for six months, eight months, nine months or more,” he told reporters at a State Department briefing on next week's Summit of the Americas.

“It has nothing to do with sending political messages. It has everything to do with our very convoluted and complicated system; and, as someone who has been through this a few times, I can tell you it's complicated. But this is not a political issue. It's a bureaucratic issue,” Mr. Davidow said.

First, a president must nominate candidates for ambassadorships, after putting them through intense background checks. Foreign governments also must agree to accept the candidates, a move usually concluded privately before the nominations are announced. Next comes Senate committee hearings and Senate confirmation votes.

The process can be delayed at any step, including in the Senate, where a member can block a nomination for almost any reason.

has not yet appointed an ambassador to Mexico, and Bolivia and Venezuela have expelled the U.S. ambassadors, accusing them of domestic interference.

Mr. Davidow, now a White House adviser for the April 17-19 summit in Trinidad, said the meeting of 34 national leaders from the Western Hemisphere will focus on the economy, security, environment, energy and poverty.

Mr. Obama is not bringing a plan with him to the summit.

“He's not going to Trinidad with a plan for the hemisphere,” Mr. Davidow said. “He is going to Trinidad with the intention of listening, discussing and dealing with his colleagues and partners.”

PRESSING VIETNAM

is urging young diplomats in Vietnam to make their country as much a model democracy as it is a model economy in Southeast Asia.

On a trip to Hanoi, the Arizona Republican told students at the Diplomatic Academy on Tuesday that Vietnam's impressive average annual economic growth rate of 7 percent should be matched by political reform in a country still run by a repressive communist government.

“Along with economic development must come political development, as well as increased respect for human rights,” he said.

Mr. McCain, a former Navy pilot, will visit the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison Wednesday where he was held and tortured for more than five years during the Vietnam War.

STILL SAYING 'NO'

Political supporters of refuse to take “no” for an answer in their campaign to get the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan to run for president in his native country.

Over the weekend, hundreds gathered in Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan. Demonstrations also have been held in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in the south, and in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province in the east.

Mr. Khalilzad, a naturalized American citizen, served as ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, to Iraq from 2005 to 2007, and to the United Nations from 2007 until the end of the Bush administration.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, send fax to 202/832-7278 or e-mail to jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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