Readers Write (June 23): Ambassadors, democracy, ethanol, transportation

  • Updated: June 20, 2014 - 6:15 PM

The ambassador to Norway doesn’t necessarily have to be Norwegian-American.

The editorial opposing the nomination of the unworthy George Tsunis to be American ambassador to Norway rightly urges a better nominee, but it ignores the fact that the United States has a career Foreign Service from which our best ambassadors are named (“Uff da! Obama’s misguided pick for Norway,” June 11). Indeed the law — Section 304 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 — states clearly that ambassadorial positions “should normally be accorded to career members of the Service.” Unfortunately, administrations and senators from both parties, currently including Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar in their statements opposing Tsunis, too often ignore the law. And so the United States, alone among advanced countries, continues a diplomatic spoils system.

There is also, too often, a belief that a U.S. ambassador should come from the ethnic or religious background of the country to which he or she is being sent. But while a Norwegian- or Scandinavian-American should certainly not be excluded from consideration for the Oslo embassy, a U.S. ambassador does not represent a constituency but our entire nation.

The career Foreign Service serves the United States both faithfully and fearlessly. I lost four friends and colleagues to terrorism and two others were kidnapped. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya, was a member of our service. From all reports, he was happy to serve there. But why should such an able officer not serve as ambassador to a key ally like Norway?

Peter Bridges, Arlington, Va.


The writer retired from the Foreign Service after serving as ambassador to Somalia in 1984-86.


Unhappy with caucus system? Get involved

In an election year, someone can always be counted on to complain about caucuses and endorsements — and get it wrong.

A letter writer (Readers Write, June 18) claims that people who can’t get to caucuses can’t be delegates. In my party, you don’t have to be there — you can run for delegate by sending a letter. The writer also erroneously claims that parties do not encourage “we the people” to select candidates. In my party, we “activists” (aka your volunteer neighbors) make active attempts to get people to the caucuses, engage them in volunteering and encourage them to vote.

The problem with caucuses and endorsements is not the smoky room, it’s the empty room. Details about caucuses are widely publicized, yet only hundreds out of tens of thousands bother to show up. Even fewer become delegates and quite often delegate seats go unfilled. The notion that a few people decide who gets endorsed is undoubtedly true, but that’s apathy, not “activists.”

As to whether wealthy individuals and groups make parties less relevant (“In primary fights, Minnesota parties fight for relevance,” June 16), I’ll just note that parties are you and me. Outside money is spent entirely to influence (or fool) you and me, meaning that the voter, at least in states without voter suppression efforts, still holds the power. If voters want to counter big money, they need to show up, work for and vote for candidates who represent the people. Believe me, the “activists” in my party would be thrilled.

George F. Greene, Brooklyn Park

• • •

Another excellent story by Rachel Stassen-Berger about the political campaigns’ efforts to raise money (“Dayton out front in cash dash,” June 18). The PACs and superPACs and individuals make the news about the huge amounts flowing into the various campaigns. I have a different question. Where does all that money go? When a PAC runs a TV ad, I get it that the stations get paid for the time, but who did the production? Where? And not just media buys, but what about other expenses?

In short, how much of that outside money flowing into campaigns helps the local economy, specifically, in the case of U.S. House and legislative races, how much money is paid to local businesses?

Carl Brookins, Roseville


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