New ambassador stumbles at the start

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As Norwegian media put it, the wealthy Greek-American businessman who’s been nominated to be the next US ambassador to Norway “tråkket i salaten” (trampled through the salad bowl) at his recent US Senate confirmation hearing. George J Tsunis’ confusion over Norway’s form of government and who’s actually in it was sparking reaction in Norway on Thursday.

George J Tsunis had a rough time during his US Senate confirmation hearing to be the US' next ambassador to Norway. PHOTO: US Senate

George J Tsunis had a rough time during his US Senate confirmation hearing to be the US’ next ambassador to Norway. PHOTO: US Senate

“The nomination (of Tsunis) is nothing less than an insult against Norway,” wrote one Norwegian taking part in online debate on document.no (external link, in Norwegian), the website that first brought news of Tsunis’ confirmation hearing. “This makes it clear that the US  kisses up to its enemies while it’s condescending towards its friends.”

“What are you sending us?” asked another Norwegian joining the debate on the website allgov.com (external link). “Highly embarrassing to watch the hearing. I must say the best part was John McCain’s final comment.” That’s when McCain, who had brought to light Tsunis’ lack of familiarity with Norway, ended the hearing of nominated ambassadors by sarcastically commenting that he had no further questions for the “incredibly highly qualified” nominees he’d just grilled.

It probably didn’t help Tsunis that McCain, a former presidential candidate for the Republican Party who lost the 2008 election to Barack Obama, was in a position to ask him questions at the hearing conducted by the senate’s foreign relations committee. (external link to newspaper Aftenposten, in Norwegian). Tsunis used to be a Republican and supported McCain’s bid but later switched sides, became a Democrat and financially supported Obama’s re-election bid. That sort of support is often rewarded with ambassador posts to countries that are solid US allies and not particularly controversial. Most all the US ambassadors sent to Norway are political appointments, not career diplomats.

Offensive blunders
Some commentators in Norway were noting that Tsunis’ lack of diplomatic experience and lack of familiarity with Norway were likely to blame for his embarrassing, even offensive blunders during his confirmation hearing. Asked to explain how an “anti-immigration” party like the Progress Party (Fremkrittspartiet, Frp) fared as it did during the last parliamentary elections, Tsunis responded that there are “fringe elements” that can “spew hatred,” but the Norwegians are quick to “denounce” them. That’s when McCain pounced, noting that the Progress Party won government power, not exactly a sign of denunciation.

RELATED STORY: Progress party seeks apology for ambassador’s flub

“I stand corrected,” Tsunis said, fumbling for a while before saying that he rather wanted to respond that Norway is “a very, very open society” and that an “overwhelming majority” of Norwegians are not anti-immigration. He had, however, already offended one of the members of Norway’s new conservative government coalition. Questions also were rising on Norwegian debate sites as to why even McCain chose to characterize the Progress Party as “anti-immigrant” when it’s often considered to be the Norwegian political party most closely resembling both the Republicans and Democrats in the US, along with being the most pro-American in Norway.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that at another point, Tsunis mistakenly referred to a “president” in Norway, confusing Norway’s form of government as a republic instead of the constitutional monarchy that it is, with a prime minister as head of government. He admitted that he’s never visited Norway but stressed in his own opening testimony that he was “honored and humbled” to appear before the committee as Obama’s ambassador nominee. “I thank the President for his trust and confidence in me,” he said.

Prepared testimony full of praise for Norway
He also thanked his parents, who were immigrants themselves in the US, “seeking to build a better life for their family.” Tsunis claimed it was their sacrifices and principles of hard work that made it possible for him to attend college and law school, after which he worked in government, for a small law firm, eventually as a partner in a bigger one and then went into business, eventually founding Chartwell Hotels on the US’ East Coast. That has also taught him, he said, the importance of global business and trade.

“If I am confirmed, I will draw on this experience to make the best case for my country, cognizant that I will be working with a terrific American and Norwegian team at Embassy Oslo,” Tsunis said. He also claimed a “strong interest in foreign and economic affairs.”

Tsunis’ testimony included references to the US’ “strong bilateral ties with Norway, in large part because we share a commitment to promoting human rights, democracy, and freedom throughout the world.” He called Norway a “pro-active, global peace-builder and for a country of just 5 million people, its influence and reputation in the international community far surpasses its size.” He also called Norway “a generous contributor to international development and humanitarian relief efforts, a strong partner on environmental matters, a leader in the area of global climate change” and “a reliable ally.” If confirmed, he said  he will “work to preserve and expand this invaluable partnership with Norway.”

It was under the questioning that Tsunis stumbled, but he was still expected to be confirmed as ambassador. “You have to give him credit for being honest at some parts of the hearing,” wrote commentator John Hansen on allgov.com. “But the total impression was very poor. I do not understand why the US sends a ‘bullshit-talker’ to Norway.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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  • John Palmer

    Embarrassing. Too bad we can’t send John Kerry; he speaks Norwegian. Or send me! What I don’t know about Norway I’d be happy to learn. Or I could say, “Beklager, men jeg vet ikke.”

    • richard albert

      Jeg forstår, men ikke så mye.
      [While his father was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway, Kerry was sent to Massachusetts to attend boarding school.] (Wiki) My pathetic research indicates that his Norwegian includes ‘Tusen Takk’ and some few socio-political and technical terms. Enough of that; you are absolutely correct. Even if I disagree with his politics, he would be an excellent choice. Worldly, urbane, and with a heritage.

      • John Palmer

        Mea culpa. I didn’t do my homework. Just heard that Kerry spoke Norwegian and took it at face value. I think every US representative in Norway should learn at least a smattering of Norwegian. It is a simple courtesy. I appreciate that most Norwegians speak English to some degree. And when I’m a guest (tourist) in your country, I like to extend the courtsy by speaking and understanding a little Norwegian. Those most tolerant of my halting Norwegian were the Pakistani shop keepers in Oslo, though native Norwegians also seemed to apprediate my efforts.

  • Lexidh Solstad

    Please, newsinenglish.no, can you make it even remotely possible to share stuff in Google+? Try, and see the “lovely” result.

    • richard albert

      What the (expletive deleted) has this got to with this thread? Google Plus is indeed a “lovely” browser which pushes social media which many consider to be undesirable and wish to avoid.

      • Lexidh Solstad

        You think Google+ is a browser? Okey… If you are going to rant about something it might be an idea to know a little about it first ;P

        • richard albert

          Maybe a lovely bowser who howls at the moon. The browser is Google Chrome which has Google + embedded. Opt-outsville, and sorry the irony went right over. High rant district doncha know? :&

  • Boydesian

    An embarrassment but certainly not a surprise. Tragically, he isn’t the worst appointment that the President has made either.

    • JamesBenson

      “Tragically, he isn’t the worst appointment that the President has made either.”

      He would actually be one of the top ten. At least he is not a communist, and he didn’t quote Mao.

  • Seth56

    Tsunis is a typical spoiled left-winged greek barbarian.

  • qwer1234567

    Agreed. Embarrassing!
    How about an end to non-career State Dept. carpetbagging “diplomats”… by BOTH parties?!

    • John Palmer

      Good idea! We should send our best people to represent us.

  • gerry93536

    A sad state of affairs. The least the president could have done is to try and send someone who might help the people of Norway with the hardest recent question pressing on their minds in the last ten years….. “What does the fox say?”

  • KCGranny

    Money can buy anything! And no one likes more be among the elite than BHO. Makes you proud doesn’t it Dems?

    • Avenger

      Money won’t do squat for these folks on Judgment Day.

  • FlintyState

    I’m done with hope, I just wan’t my change back. Can we go one day without embarrassing ourselves on the world stage? Obama has proven to be as incompetent and dangerous as his predecessor.

  • jimjimmy

    As a citizen of the US I apologize to the people of Norway for our president he has never had a job in his life an knows nothing but contempt for the US an the Constitution an it shows with his appointment of George Tsunis as ambassador to Norway!

    • TestTickle

      The dumbest of the redneck contingent repeat the myth that obama never held a job. They are unaware that he taught constitutional law for 12 years at one of the premier US law schools, was a practicing lawyer for many years, served in the illinois state senate and the US house of representatives for 2 terms each, and was on the board of directors and a consultant for a number of organizations. That seems like holding a number of jobs to me.
      Americans are the most gullible, ignorant people on earth, partly from lack of education, but mostly because 90% are raised backward yokels. they deserve ronald mcdonald for president, and would vote for him if he were on the ‘right’ ticket.

      • richard albert

        Those were appointments and elected positions. Jobs are where you do work and gain actual experience, Steve.
        I am really glad you think that Americans are the most gullible, Ignorant people on earth. That is why the USA has the one of the most active civil rights movement in the world. That is why prosecutions for hate crimes, child abuse and spousal violence is number three in the free word, i.e. those with even moderately verifiable statistics.
        As to ‘partly from lack of education’, you are in error. What you mean is lack of indoctrination into your wretchedly narrow point of view.
        Do you even realize that the USA is overrun – yes – US colleges and universities overrun by applications from Asians? Are they stupid?
        Why do my friends from India attend Oxford and then go on to Stanford and then return to their homeland? Because they wish to become stupid and undereducated?
        So, who in God’s green world are well educated, intelligent, politically correct and free from being raised as backward yokels? Afghanistan?

        • TestTickle

          I can only conclude that you fall into the category of gullible, indoctrinated ignoramuses as you not only miss the main point of my comment [Obama’s WORK HISTORY], but continue to repeat the myth that Obama never held a job in the private sector when, in fact, MOST of his employment experience has not been thru’ political appointments or elections. This has zero to do with my FEELINGS about obama’s presidency; it is merely a fervent wish that people would google the FACTS rather than mindlessly repeat idiotic myths about obama’s employment history. His work in both the public and private sectors is at least as adequate to qualify him for the presidency as a candidate who has spent the majority of his experience doing either corporate mergers or military exercises. This work history myth is as false and irrelevant as all the other idiot stories about how he is a gay, communist, drug taking muslim that are latched on by your gullible ilk.

          [I wrote only 5 words related to American education but that seems to have provoked enough hurt feelings on your part to generate virtually the entirety of your response. Only 30% of americans have a
          university degree, and a good number of these degrees are from a vast industry of highly profitable but substandard institutions that process degrees for
          people who cannot even perform on a high school level. On EVERY international survey, American
          teens now score BELOW THE INTERNATIONAL AVERAGE in math, science and reading, leaving many spaces at universities to be filled by more competent students from abroad. Why is it that the richest economy in the world cannot produce students even to average global standards? International student enrollment is rising all over the world - not just in the US, but only in America can an inflatable balloon buy a ‘college degree’.]

          • richard albert

            I was not inclined to respond to your rather negative and hasty post until I ran across this:

            Jerusalem Times: TestTickle • a day ago
            “@ common stupidity-
            one despicable thing about jews is their boastfulness. arrogance is neither an attractive characteristic, nor is it indicative of intelligence. So, i’d have to say that YOU are one stupid jew, and I see a lot just like you.”

            I really hope I am misunderstanding this tread.

            ‘Gullible’, ‘ignorant’ and so on are epithets without a metric and so are easy to ignore. The misuse of ‘ilk’ also should (probably) be ignored in context. It is becoming accepted in US English.

            Do you ever, ever have anything remotely positive or constructive to say?

            Let us hear it now.

            Chat skilledommer – hører du på?

      • sailor27

        Where is Obama’s graduation certificate?

        Why are all his academic files sealed to the public, at a cost of almost 1 Million annually?

        He LIED on his application for foreign student loans at Harvard, and he has been lying ever since.

        As his ‘sponsor’ Hilary Clinton said about the agenda which resulted in a tragedy in Benghazi -“what difference does it make?”………….if you get caught telling a lie – just tell a bigger lie. The only job Obama has – is to fund and support the Muslim Brotherhood/AlQaida who’s ideology is directly linked to and born of the N@zi SS, and to create tidal waves of FAKE third world Muslim refugees……..to infiltrate sane, civil societies in an overcrowded, underemployed, economically stressed Europe………under the false flag of “humanitarian” rights. Remind me again………what exactly did Obama do to earn a Nobel Prize?

        Speak for yourself – regarding being a gullible, ignorant American……….you may be all of the above, but don’t confuse America with Obama.

        • BobBobbyBobertsen

          Obama also has a device that transmits high-frequency beta brain waves that makes white people eager to surrender their countries to the browner folk. It was given to him in Kenya upon his birth and subsequent invocation into the mujahadeen, they got it from Hitler himself. You sir are the last resistance, please keep up the good fight. The Norwegians are complicit, Norway has been pushing up the price of tinfoil with its grocery chain monopolies, making it prohibitively expensive for us to adorn tinfoil hats daily. It’s like, do we feed the kids or protect ourselves from the dark warrior? We are defenseless sir, please stock up on tinfoil and be safe, you are our only hope.

  • Torkel Halvorsen

    You are very welcome here in Norway, you would learn that we have an airport in Sola (sun in nordic), even do the North-Koreans claim they have a man there now (we havent seen him yet) and many other fine things you do not know.

  • Curt Rice

    Democrats and Republicans alike have included the Oslo post on their list of potential rewards to big donors. And even Bush’s Norwegian-American ambassador, Ben Whitney, spent quite a bit of time trampling through the salad bowl in Oslo, to use the idiom of this article. The only way to end this system of political appointees is to fundamentally change the system of campaign financing in the U.S. It’s not difficult to imagine how to do that, but until there’s sufficient public engagement, it’s not going to happen. So, instead of focusing on an individual case — which is indeed embarrassing — we should work to change the system in which this is possible.

  • Jon Kennedy

    It appears this guy didn’t read the Wikipedia page on Norway, nor the CIA’s fact sheet page, nor the State Dept’s page, etc. I’m very sorry, Norway, but this is the typical quality of people that our current liberal-progressive government can produce.

    • BobBobbyBobertsen

      While I agree with your comment about this guy, I find it interesting that you would complain about your “current liberal-progressive government” on a Norwegian site. Your current government is far to the right of the most far-right party in Norway, that’s kind of the whole point of all this.

      • JamesBenson

        That’s kind of frightening.

        • hh

          It actually isn’t. Norway has operated with socialists in government many times and is faring pretty well.

      • Rational_Db8

        Its not primarily that it’s a liberal progressive government, Bob – and it has nothing to do with a comparison to Norway’s poltiics. Its that it is THIS particular administration, e.g., Obama, is noted for very under-qualified, extremist, and highly questionable appointees.

        • BobBobbyBobertsen

          Then why mention that it is a liberal-progressive government? What is the point of putting those two words in there? He is complaining about your current “liberal progressive government” which is not liberal nor progressive by Norwegian standards, so his comment makes no sense here. It is clearly intended to disparage liberals and progressives, which Obama is not, and the vast majority of Norwegians are (even the ones belonging to the “conservative” party here).

          • Rational_Db8

            “which is not liberal nor progressive by Norwegian standards, so his comment makes no sense here.”

            Funny thing, I would have thought Norwegians were mature and worldly enough to understand that the short label descriptions of government in one place wouldn’t necessarily be the same in Norway and vice versa.

            And Obama is very much a creature of the hard left liberal/progressive. If you don’t think he is, you don’t know much about him.

            Lastly, if the original poster had simply meant to disparage all liberal/progressives, he wouldn’t have included the word “current.” He would just have blasted away at all liberal/progressives from any time period and any location. He didn’t however, he specified OUR CURRENT lib/prog. administration.

            • BobBobbyBobertsen

              That was my whole point, you may have noticed this is a Norwegian website, the internet is not all American, which seems to be a difficult concept for some to grasp. Using the world liberal and progressive to describe Obama to people who view him as conservative (no single payer? wtf?) is at best ignorant.

              • Rational_Db8

                No, failing to recognize that the terms are applied differently in different nations, and that in fact in his own country Obama is far left liberal/progressive is at best ignorant. You are the one assuming a nation-centric view, not American’s who correctly describe Obama’s position within his own nation’s political framework rather than trying to somehow fit him into YOUR particular framework.

                • BobBobbyBobertsen

                  I am fully aware that he is liberal by American standards, but having discussions on international forums in the framework of the American political spectrum is idiotic, as is your attempt to justify it. I’ll try to spell my other objection out to you with an example, let’s assume you’re Russian (I don’t care what nationality you are, nor do I have anything against Russians), but if I wrote “that Russian poster has no idea what he’s talking about” that would be derogatory toward Russians, the same is true when you say “liberal/progressive” in the context of a disparaging comment against Obama. That you don’t know that Obama is far to the right on many issues compared to the most conservative Norwegian parties is the pinnacle of ignorance, and I won’t waste any more of my time trying to explain simple concepts to you when you won’t even do your own research.

              • Rational_Db8

                Oh, and apparently you hadn’t bothered to notice that Obama strongly favors single payer. How about you tell me just where he’s in any way to the right of center in the Norwegian political spectrum?

  • SteveAR

    As an American who is half Greek, I am embarrassed that this lummox would be considered for this position. If anything, it just goes to show it doesn’t take brains to make money.

    However, I’m not embarrassed for my country. I didn’t vote for Obama. This idiotic choice is his, and his alone.

    Although this Tsunis d0rk looks like a lock for confirmation, I hope every single Republican votes against confirmation, and make the Democrats confirm this loser.

    • richard albert

      Μπορεί να σας παρακαλώ αφήστε εθνική έξω από αυτό; Volstead ήταν nordic εξόρυξης, αλλά διέπραξε τη θλίψη της απαγόρευσης για το αμερικανικό κοινό. Οι ανόητοι είναι ανόητοι.

      So that the long-suffering moderator(s) do not have to resort to machine translation (nor shall the readership):

      May we please leave ethnic out of this? Volstead was of nordic extraction but perpetrated the affliction of prohibition on the American public. Fools are fools.

  • throatdog

    You can’t exaggerate or overstate Obama’s incompetence. Can’t be done.

    • RV Mike

      All you need to do is compare him to G.W. Bush. His incompetence looks small then.

      • Nancy Clare Bowman Lischner

        Hey RV Mike, Bush was honest. Much more than we’ve got going on with Obama. Small????

  • War Planner

    Tsunis could have at least watched “lilyhammer” on Netflix to prepare for this hearing?

  • Tom Servo

    he didn’t even bother to read the Wiki page on Norway before his Senate hearing.

  • ptm

    What does one expect from the GREATEST of Bu&^-SH&^ artists, O Bumbler, it takes one to know one.

  • rbeccah

    This is just another demonstration to the world of the incompetence of the Obama administration.

  • Recon5

    “I do not understand why the US sends a ‘bullshit-talker’ to Norway.”

    Most of us can’t understand why we elected one as our President, either. Twice.

    • Tad

      Well, in all fairness “W” wasn’t elected the first time, the Supreme Court perpetrated that one. So, it’s only once.

      • richard albert

        Yes. You are correct in your assessment of the Supreme Court’s role in the outcome of that election. Your use of the verb transitive perpetrate (perpetrated) puzzles me. Would you care to expand upon your view? Do you possibly mean ‘promulgated’?

  • russedav

    ” I do not understand why the US sends a ‘b-s-talker’ to Norway.””
    Unfortunately b-s is all the appointer has to offer

  • Luke

    Many of you seem quite busy in shooting easy targets. The actual news here is that FRP is recognized as an anti-immigration party even by US republicans: it was McCain who actually used the label. Since most european politicians and observers think the same, maybe FRP members should ask themselves why, before seeking apologies.

  • johnmpls

    Wait…..I thought all of Europe lioved everything Obama did. Were we deceived?

  • Travis Cleveland

    The POTUS brought very little to the job in the way of administrative experience and his body of work these past 5 years reflect it, appointments being only one of his shortcomings. Very elementary percepts of government are foreign to him. He does speak well but words are not enough for a person in his position.

  • cosmopolite

    The Loyalists, namely Americans who declined to repudiate the British Crown after the battle of Yorktown, walked north to what is now Ontario and the eastern townships of Quebec, and more or less founded the Canada we now know. This is the deep historical reason why the Canadian and American lifestyles are very much alike. Anglophone Canadians are Americans who saw no reason to divorce Mother England, and eventually discovered that that marriage did not meaningfully constrain them in any way. When the British Parliament abolished slavery by statute in 1833, Canada simply accepted that without violence. Canada wisely avoided Prohibition. When the Depression hit, only one small Canadian bank failed, even thought the Bank of Canada did not open its doors until 1935. Canada has fantastic mineral and energy resources, and is a nation to watch looking forward.

  • cosmopolite

    The ambassador of the USA to countries that are peaceful and not quarreling with the USA, Norway being a typical case in point, are not career diplomats but generous campaign contributors. This is not the first time that an American political appointee has embarrassed himself.

  • hinckleybuzzard

    Cheer up. You get an ambassador who knows nothing about Norway, we get a president who knows nothing about the US.

  • jimjimmy

    (The young law professor stood apart in too many ways to count. At a school where economic analysis was all the rage, he taught (rights, race
    and gender). Other faculty members dreamed of tenured positions; he turned them down. While most colleagues published by the pound, he never
    completed a single work of legal scholarship)

    “never completed a single work of legal scholarship!”

    From NYT’s

    Nothing about Law or the Constitution! He was a sometime adjunct temporary professor!

    you say (US house of representatives for 2 terms each) he never finished his second term in the US house.

    He served three terms representing the 13th District in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004

    Again you seem to be the one who is ignorant.

    This bahrack husaine ohbumle who’s feet you worship is the most unqualified man in any room he walks into!

    No school history, no work history, an no voting history in Illinois or in the US house of reps! an yet you call me IGNORANT?

    Ronald Mcdonald has a work history an would make a better president than bho!

    bahrack husaine ohbumble

    the WORST US PRESIDENT EVER!

  • EVSCBT

    This is how little the people in this administration think of Norway. People in Norway deserve someone that actually takes time to prepare and understand what the people and what the country are about. As an American it is truly embarrassing that our leaders would nominate this clown.

  • He_Wei_Jin

    “I do not understand why the US sends a ‘BS-talker’ to Norway”
    Because the Obama administration does not give a shit about Norway, Europe or our allies. He is a leftist wrecker intent on destroying our country as it exists, our relationship with our allies, and our strength and influence in the world. He values a sleazy bundler more than any other country.

  • Tis_not

    Somewhat factual, and speaking as someone who voted for Obama the first time and quit a 15 year military career out of disgust with dubya, I expected more. America was war weary and in the middle of am economic crisis that was ignored in lieu of foreign affairs. However, Obama has been a great disappointment. I don’t buy into all the stupidity that surrounds internet rumors (false birth certificate, anyone?), but the truth is that he is not the most experienced diplomat, leader, nor worker. It’s what got him the job, his appearance of innocence and change. But never mistake his position as belonging to people who are qualified. It belongs to those who are chosen. Many American president would not have passed a litmus test.

    Why would we need to send a super qualified ambassador to Norway? Is there some difficulty we need him to resolve? He’s going to come here, buy cold winter clothing, learn to snakkers, and then disappear onto something else. Thank god he’s as dumb as he is, if he keeps his mouth shut he probably can’t screw anything up. Probably.

  • Nancy Clare Bowman Lischner

    How can this happen, the man has never set foot in Norway? President Obama must be smoking pot again or money is being passed under the table. How very sad!

  • Rational_Db8

    If you actually listened to the testimony as I did, or you find and read a transcript, then it’s crystal clear that with those words Hillary is trying to avoid accepting responsibility. Johnson was pushing her on why the administration had been lying and covering up the facts of what occurred at Benghazi. Her response was a very transparent and false attempt to shift the focus and to get him to stop questioning her about her responsibilities to find out exactly what had occurred and accurately report it to Congress and the American people. It was a gross travesty for someone in her position of authority to respond in such a fashion – but unfortunately not surprising from politicians recently.

    Your characterization of the issues is incorrect. In fact, it’s pretty clear that in reviewing what happened, and assertaining what actually occurred, learning from that, and assigning blame where it belongs and accepting responsibility for her own part in the occurrence “at this point” it makes all the difference in the world. She didn’t want that known. Try reading the bipartisan US Senate Intelligence Report – it found that Benghazi was entirely avoidable and shouldn’t have ever happened, and Hillary is in large part to blame and is entirely responsible. She’d prefer that fact not be known.

  • Gary

    The guy previously gave money to the 2008 John McCain campaign. He does not discriminate when it comes to trying to buy favor. The President should withdraw his nomination if Tsunis fails to withdraw himself. We also need to reconsider the wisxom of private financing of campaigns for public office.