It’s slightly absurd that we require Senate confirmation for every United States Ambassador, a rule that’s a legacy of a very different period in world history. It’s also slightly absurd that we let individual Senators block nominations. But at the intersection of the two lies Sam Brownback’s hold on the nomination of veteran diplomatic professional Frank Ricciardone to the post of Ambassador to Turkey:
The controversy over the nomination is mired in the history of U.S. relations with several of the countries in which Ricciardone has served, including Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.
To his supporters, Ricciardone is a distinguished 34-year veteran of the Foreign Service who has taken on tough assignments in dangerous places on behalf of both Democratic and Republican administrations. To his critics, Ricciardone’s record shows a pattern of being too close to the governments he is interacting with and too tepid on the mission to push values such as democracy and human rights with tyrannical regimes.
Tyrannical regimes like Turkey? The conservative movement’s recent effort to redefine Turkey as an enemy of the United States on the grounds that culturally conservative populist nationalists—people just like them!—are now allowed to participate fully in Turkish political life is not quite as absurd as when Randy Scheunemann said President McCain would refuse to meet with the Prime Minister of Spain but it’s close.