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Minnesotans pushing back against Obama’s Norway ambassador pick

“We want the American citizens to have a qualified ambassador in Oslo, and we want the government in Oslo to be dealing with a qualified ambassador,” said Davis, a member of the state’s Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce. “This is just basic common sense.”

“I’m sure he’s a lovely person, but it would seem to me that if I was going to be front of a Senate confirmation hearing to become an ambassador of the United States, I would have been reading about the culture and the politics and had myself up to date with what’s going on,” she said.

“There’s not really a bright line between whether you’re career or not and your effectiveness, really,” said Benson Whitney, a Minnesota businessman who served as ambassador to Norway under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. “There are some great non-career ambassadors and some great career ambassadors. And there have been crummy career ambassadors and some crummy non-career ambassadors.”

Whitney, a member of an advisory council at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, observed what he called the “well-deserved tradition” of not speaking ill of his potential successor.

He admitted he wasn’t terribly active in the Norwegian-American community before his appointment, and he’d only visited the country as a child. But, “I worked very hard to understand the society and the government and the institutions because that’s a part of being an effective advocate for the president and the people and the United States,” he said.

“They’ll treat [Tsunis] with respect, but no one will have respect for him,” Davis said. “President Obama has a good legacy, his perception is good over there, but if this is pushed, that’s also going to be ruined.”

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 02/21/2014 - 12:00 pm.


    Dette er en norsk som ikke er fornøyd i det hele tatt med Tsunis. Han innrømmer at han har aldri vært der og fornærmet regjeringen, men verre han fornærmet kongen ved å ikke engang vite hva slags regjering Norge har.

    (This is one Norwegian who is not happy at all with Tsunis. He admits he has never been there and insulted the government, but worse he insulted the King by not even knowing the type of government Norway has.)

  2. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 02/21/2014 - 12:56 pm.

    most admired

    The Obama administration most admires the money Tsunis raised and his political loyalty, not competence. That is all that Tsunis brought to the table. I hope Obama chooses someone else but I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/21/2014 - 01:36 pm.

    Wait until Fox gets ahold of this one.

    Benghazi! IRS! Oslo-gate!

    But seriously, with due respect for the (legitimate) interests of the Norwegian constituency, if we start demanding competence of patronage appointments, what will happen to “the Way Things Are Done Around Here”? What will be next, demanding that members of Congress pursue the common good?

  4. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/21/2014 - 06:22 pm.

    The Regressive Party…

    … also known as the Progress Party, is not a Norwegian fringe party, but it’s close. It’s ridiculous that an American ambassador be in the position of apologizing to this populist relic of Thatcherism and Reaganism. That disqualifies him.

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/22/2014 - 09:08 am.

    Uff Da !!

    This episode shows just how trivial Norway is in the foreign policy of the United States and Pres. Obama.

    But it’s not just Norway, and it’s not just the long-standing practice of using ambassadorships as prizes for performance. It’s really the display of devaluation of the sovereignty of all nation states outside of the U.S.

    The Norway instance is just a particularly embarrassing example.

    You gotta wonder if this appointee had any reservations at all about accepting an appointment to a position where he was completely unqualified.

    If he had no reservations, what is this appointment to him, anyway – a career bullet point for his vitae? Didn’t he have a SINGLE friend, associate, or spouse who would have said to him, “You’d better read a little about Norway before this hearing.”??

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/22/2014 - 10:41 am.

    A little less proceedure and a little more biography

    Would be nice to know something about this guy other than he’s a New York business man. What kind of business, where’s he from etc.

    I do worry about drawing political appointments from our executive class because we have such a mediocre crop of executives to choose from these days.

  7. Submitted by David Frenkel on 02/23/2014 - 09:15 am.

    This is how DC works

    There is a saying in DC that every decision is a political decision. Political appointees are no different, some maybe qualified but most appointments are pay packs and it is how the system works. It certainly would help the standing of ambassadors and the US if the ambassadors could speak the primarily language of the country they go to as well as understand the geo/political landscape. There has been talk to having career diplomats being rewarded ambassadorships since they typically have these skills but it will never get any traction as long as money has such power in US politics.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/23/2014 - 12:34 pm.

    Let him eat lutefisk

    I suppose Tsunis will have a ‘fracking’ good time’ once he secures/ invests in the mineral rights under a few fjords….under the patriotic excuse for keeping China out of those new oil developments?

    Or let’s say, anyone want to write a new Nordic myth? Story of the Cod and the Cad…about Baby Face George as ambassador who eats lutefisk and is convinced those cold Nordic types have poisoned him, ja.

    Norway isn’t pleased but think of it this way…he’ll be fun to watch… but also watch your fjords. He’ll invest in them as real estate – hotels etc and whatever oily real estate that can be fracked beneath, ja du …

    Another thought; Why not nominate Robert Bly poet- Ambassador. I’m no fan of his verse but export him to fame and fortune; a rare circumstance among poor poets…and his poetry may sound better in Norsk, who knows?

    Plus back to George… if he is not literally challenged as he appears to be in some areas, I suggest he read “Sharks” by the late, great cynical, mad Norwegian novelist Jens Bjorne-boe (.and the ‘boe’ is pronounced ‘boo’ eh?

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/23/2014 - 02:14 pm.

      I want to see his face when they set him down to a meal…

      …of lutefisk – and Gammalost, that stinker of a cheese.

      A Norwegian favorite for long years, the “cheese of the Vikings.”, whose virtues are extolled in the “Gammalost Song”:

      ” Gammalost, Gammalost
      …sweeter than old socks…
      …never fear for spoiling
      it’s been well past all that…”

      (from lyrics to Gammalost Song – you can listen to it at

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