While CBS and ABC have awoken to the "embarrassing" performance of Barack Obama's wealthy donors turned ambassadorial nominees, NBC is still skipping the details of the men and women who have flubbed confirmation hearings. Even Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative, admitted on Wednesday: "Critics say that too many of the plumb jobs are going to political cronies who have more cash than competence..." [MP3 audio here.]
Just prior to playing clips of multiple Obama nominees, all of whom donated at least $500,000 to the President, reporter Jon Karl marveled, "Sometimes it can be downright embarrassing. President Obama's pick to be ambassador to Argentina has never set foot in the place." Footage included the nominee to Hungary, former soap opera producer Colleen Bell, appearing baffled after being asked about America's strategic interest in the country.
Bloomberg reported the exchange this way:
At her confirmation hearing last month, [Senator John] McCain asked Bell an exceedingly simple question: “What are our strategic interests in Hungary?”
She gave the following imperishable answer: “Well, we have our strategic interests, in terms of what are our key priorities in Hungary, I think our key priorities are to improve upon, as I mentioned, the security relationship and also the law enforcement and to promote business opportunities, increase trade-- ”
McCain interrupted her: “I’d like to ask again what our strategic interests in Hungary are.”
Bell plowed ahead. “Our strategic interests are to work collaboratively as NATO allies, to work to promote and protect the security, both -- for both countries and for -- and for the world, to continue working together on the cause of human rights around the world, to build that side of our relationship while also maintaining and pursuing some difficult conversations that might be necessary in the coming years.”
To which McCain replied, witheringly, “Great answer.”
Despite the fact that ABC has covered the topic twice in the last month and CBS focused on it once, NBC has yet to show interest in the scandal.
Instead, NBC's Today show on Wednesday devoted four minutes to a weight loss controversy surrounding The Biggest Loser.
GMA's Karl explained the details to viewers, noting "Here's what these nominees have in common: They each helped raise more than $500,000 for the Obama reelection campaign." The segment showed the journalist grilling White House press secretary Jay Carney on the contributions: "Is that a coincidence?
As CBS This Morning noted on February 17, the percentage of large Obama donors who have been nominated for ambassadorial spots is higher than Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. (But slightly lower than Reagan's over eight years.)
A transcript of the February 26 GMA segment is below:
ABC GRAPHIC: Fallout From Obama Ambassador Picks: Critics Say "Enough Is Enough"
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to go to the White House now where President Obama is facing some tough questions about his nominees for ambassador. Critics say that too many of the plumb jobs are going to political cronies who have more cash than competence and they are pushing hard to reforms. ABC's Jon Karl has the story.
JON KARL: Sometimes it can be downright embarrassing. President Obama's pick to be ambassador to Argentina has never set foot in the place.
MARCO RUBIO: Mr. Mamet, have you been to Argentina?
NOAH MAMET: Senator, I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there.
KARL: Neither have the President's picks for Iceland or Norway.
JOHN MCCAIN: Mr. Barber, I take it you've been to Iceland.
ROBERT BARBER: Sir, I have not – I have not had the privilege yet. I look forward –
MCCAIN: Mr. Tunis have you been to Norway?
GEORGE TUNIS: I have not.
KARL: And the would-be ambassador to Hungary is a soap opera producer who had a hard time answering basic questions about the country.
MCCAIN: What are our strategic interests in Hungary?
COLLEEN BELL: Well, we have -- our strategic interests in terms of what are our key priorities?
JON STEWART [on the Daily Show]: Have any of you [bleeped] people been to Epcot Center? Have you been anyway? Is there a rule that ambassadors can't have set foot in the country they're going to ambassador? Would it ruin the surprise?
KARL: Here's what these nominees have in common: They each helped raise more than $500,000 for the Obama reelection campaign. Like previous presidents, President Obama has reserved about one-third of his ambassadorial appointments for political supporters, most of them big donors. [To Jay Carney] More than half of the political appointees he made to ambassadorial posts gave or bundled, helped raise more than $500,000 for his re-election campaign. Is that a coincidence?
JAY CARNEY: Look, the President takes an approach where he finds qualified nominees for these posts from a variety of walks of life.
KARL: One nomination that the foreign service association will be watching very closely is U.S. Ambassador to France, the post is currently vacant. The question, George, is will it go to somebody who raised big bucks for the Obama campaign and if so, will that be somebody who also knows a little about France?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. That has been vacant for awhile. Jon, thanks very much. Boy, you would think people would do their homework.