Nel's New Day

July 25, 2014

New GOP Rep Displays Colossal Ignorance

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 8:48 PM
Tags: , , ,

It’s Friday. That means there’s no new Daily Show. For those of you who go through withdrawal without Jon Stewart, you can watch Rep. Kurt Clawson (R-FL) as he addresses two Indians—actually Indian-Americans during a House sub-committee on Asia and the Pacific. Yesterday was Clawson’s first day on the committee after winning a special election last month. He replaced Trey Radel who pleaded guilty to trying to buy cocaine from an undercover police officer last year. Pressure from Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) led Radel to resign.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, senior officials of the U.S. government, to the committee. They serve as assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs and assistant secretary and director general of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service, respectively. Clawson was only too happy to welcome the two government representatives to the United States.

“I’m familiar with your country. I love your country. And I understand the complications of so many languages and so many cultures and so many histories all rolled up in one. Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so…Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S. I’d like our capital to be welcome there. I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

After a long embarrassing pause, Biswal (below right) responded,

“I think your question is to the Indian government. We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S.”


There was no indication that Clawson even understood his mistake. He grinned and said, “Of course. OK. Let’s see some progress.”


Clawson will be running for election this fall. The video may be shown many times before that. As Rachel Maddow said, “Your tax dollars at work.”

According to Chabot, Clawson’s “speaks four languages and all kinds of other great stuff.” According to Clawson’s statements, he also likes Bollywood movies.

Congressional members—at least some of them—are trying to strengthen ties between the U.S. and India after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected this past spring. Some lawmakers are circulating letters to have Modi speak to a joint session of Congress.

The U.S. disdain for foreign policy is echoed by the Senate’s refusal to confirm ambassadors. About 25 percent of the world’s countries are waiting for almost 50 ambassadors to be confirmed by the Senate.  The chamber leaves for a month-long vacation at the end of next week, making it unlikely that any of this action will happen until at least fall.  There have been complaints that nominated ambassadors lack diplomatic credentials, but three-fourths of the ambassadors-in-waiting are career diplomats who should easily pass through the confirmation process.

A month ago, Secretary of State John Kerry asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to confirm these ambassadors “en bloc” like military promotions as in the past. Now Republicans routinely refuse to give unanimous consent required to proceed on quick confirmation votes. Without that consent, confirming one single ambassador can take up to eight hours. The average waiting period for confirmation has been 262 days, and 75 percent of those not confirmed have waited for over a year.

  • Iraq’s and Egypt’s ambassadors weren’t confirmed until mid-June.
  • Egypt last had an ambassador in August 2013.
  • The nominee to Kuwait waited for 200 days while the crisis in Iraq is escalating into regional warfare. Neighboring countries such as Kuwait and Jordan are overrun with hundreds of thousands of refuses.
  • One-fourth of all countries in Africa are waiting for ambassadors while U.S. counterterrorism efforts are pivoting toward that continent. Places such as Niger, Cameroon, and Mauritania are part of the region that is fighting against the terrorist organization Boko Haram. Niger just got a U.S. ambassador this week.
  • The nomination for ambassador to South Korea just got out of committee in mid-June although North Korea has recently launched three short-range projectiles toward Japan, following Kim Jong-un’s threatening responses to an American film with a plot to kill him.
  • The Senate waited to confirm the ambassador for Honduras until early July; a vacancy still exists in Guatemala. Refugees are flooding across the U.S. border from both countries.


Lt. General Kip Ward, USA (Ret.), past Commander at U.S. Africa Command, described the problem in this way:


“When we create a void, or a void is allowed to exist, someone is going to fill it. When it’s filled by something that’s not in our national interest, reversing it requires extraordinary amounts of resources. The more voids that exist, the more difficult that path becomes.”

As Kerry said, “We can’t lead if we are not present.”

We’ll give the Senate some credit. They managed to confirm six ambassadors this month.  Now we hope that India, the country that Clawson so loves, will get a U.S. ambassador.


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