Amid major crisis between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, U.S. spokesman forced to admit we have no ambassador in either country

“I don’t have that name in front of me right now and …” other attempts to not answer.

As you know, we have a pretty major crisis just now between two extremely important U.S. allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, over the apparent kidnapping and likely murder, by Saudi agents in Turkey, of a prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi had fled Saudi Arabia for his safety after criticizing the rule of the rising Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and had been granted permanent resident status in the United States, and has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The Saudis are not explaining what became of him. But you knew all that.

At a press briefing yesterday in Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino got caught in a hilarious back and forth, transcript below, because he didn’t want to acknowledge that in the midst of this crisis the United States doesn’t have an ambassador in either country, both vitally important and, in fact, hasn’t had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia since the inauguration of Donald Trump, now almost two years ago. The top spot atop the U.S. embassy in Turkey has been vacant for one year.

At the briefing, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee (who obviously knew the answer) decided to torment poor Palladino, who was not anxious to acknowledge that the administration for which he speaks has left such key posts vacant for so long and now finds itself doubly ambassadorless in the midst of a pretty serious crisis. The following is from the State Department transcript:

QUESTION: And then in terms of your high-level diplomatic talks, other than the calls you – other than the calls that you’ve read out here, presumably you have people on the ground in both Ankara, Istanbul – in Ankara, Istanbul, and Riyadh all pushing this, right?

MR PALLADINO: Our embassies overseas, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR PALLADINO: Our diplomatic mission overseas.

QUESTION: Who again – what’s the name of the ambassador in Turkey right now?

MR PALLADINO: I don’t have that in front of me right now and I – Matt —

QUESTION: What’s the name of the ambassador in Saudi Arabia right now?

MR PALLADINO: I see what you’re getting at. Okay. We are confident in our diplomatic —

QUESTION: The answer is that you don’t have an ambassador in either place, right?

MR PALLADINO: We —

QUESTION: And in fact, the chargé in Riyadh has now been nominated to be the ambassador to Yemen. So just is it correct that you do not have ambassadors in place in either Ankara or Riyadh?

MR PALLADINO: But we have diplomatic staff, senior diplomatic officials —

QUESTION: I’m sure you do.

MR PALLADINO: — very much – very much in charge. And yesterday Heather spoke at the top as well about the need for the State Department to get its full team on the field, and we definitely would reiterate our request for our colleagues in the Senate and their assistance in fielding our full camp.

QUESTION: Understood. Who has been nominated to be the new ambassador to Turkey, and who has been nominated to be the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia? Who are the nominees who are awaiting Senate movement?

MR PALLADINO: Matt, I don’t have that in front of me right now. And – but let me just say these are senior Foreign Service officers that have had full careers and we’re confident in our team’s ability.

QUESTION: You’re sure someone’s been nominated for both positions?

MR PALLADINO: I would have to take the question, Matt.

QUESTION: Robert. Robert, really quickly, just —

MR PALLADINO: All right, one more. Let’s go to Fox.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Patrick Tice on 10/11/2018 - 02:01 pm.

    We are two years into the current, um, “administration”, and the State Department is still an eviscerated mess, understaffed and in chaos. There is proof positive that the GOP can’t govern.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/12/2018 - 11:11 am.

      And yet, somehow they manage to have historic meetings with Norko, conclude trade deals with Canada and Mexico, back Iran down, crush ISIS and mop up the mess Obama left in the S. China Sea.

      Amazing, right? Go figure.

  2. Submitted by charles thompson on 10/11/2018 - 02:24 pm.

    Let Jared do it…

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/11/2018 - 02:53 pm.

    In addition, there is no Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, so there is no one in the State Department overseeing relations with Saudi Arabia. We also have no ambassadors in Egypt or Jordan. Heck, why would we? What could possibly happen in that part of the world?

    This situation is standard operating procedure for the Trump administration. We had no ambassador on the ground in South Korea until this past summer, and there still is no Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/11/2018 - 03:06 pm.

    That’s OK — we don’t have a functional president either.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/11/2018 - 07:12 pm.

    It’s the “why bother with experts” thing.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/12/2018 - 07:55 am.

    Sad.

    Some might say “incompetent.”

    But we’re “winning,” right? So. Much. Winning.

  7. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 10/12/2018 - 03:32 pm.

    There are other major Trump eviscerations in administrative agencies. Just look at the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, where advisory panel after advisory panel–and lead administrators–are eliminated every week or month, and replaced by representative of the industries polluting. If the Trump folks replace scientific advisory groups at all.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/12/2018 - 05:39 pm.

      Any day now, he’ll change the name of the Department of Defense,…

      back to the Department of War.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/15/2018 - 10:00 am.

        That would be like a stopped (old fashioned mechanical) clock being right twice a day. Or the proverbial blind squirrel finding a nut.

        It’s not about defense. We have over 800 over seas bases, with about a third of our troops “defending” us by being stationed in other nations. We spend more on “defense” than the next 7 countries combined, some of which are allies.

        Calling this “defense” is a triumph of ideology over common sense.

        So yeah, War Department would be more honest.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/12/2018 - 05:40 pm.

      He really SHOULD change the name of the EPA,…

      to the Environmental Pollution Agency.

  8. Submitted by Roy Everson on 10/13/2018 - 01:06 am.

    Hold on, folks. It may be better to have senior foreign service officers who as a group are no doubt more trustworthy than the yahoos that might be installed by Trump. As in the Berlin embassy where bluster and threats and sympathies with right wing populist parties are part of the job.

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