Qualifications should matter

President Barack Obama apparently is more concerned with rewarding political supporters than good relations between the U.S. and other countries.

That ought to concern thoughtful Americans. When a prospective U.S. ambassador to Norway angers people in that country by categorizing one of the nation’s ruling parties as extremists, Americans’ interests are damaged.

That happened the recently when Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway testified before a U.S. Senate committee. He referred to members of one Norwegian political party as members of a “fringe.”

The performances of other Obama nominees for ambassador’s posts were not much better. Soap opera producer Colleen Bell was unable to answer questions about U.S. interests in Hungary, where she wants to represent our nation. Robert Barber, nominated to go to Iceland, admitted he has never been there. Ditto for Noah Mamet, slated for the embassy in Argentina.

All four nominees have one thing in common: They have raised millions of dollars for Obama.

Rewarding donors with ambassadorships is not unusual. Most presidents have done it, reserving an average of 30 percent of their nominations for such friends. The other 70 percent go to career Foreign Service employees – safer in critical countries such as, say, Argentina.

Obama has thrown that formula out. During his second term, political allies have received 53 percent of the ambassador nominations.