Norwegian-Americans lobbying for US President Barack Obama to withdraw his candidate for the US ambassador post in Norway have welcomed Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang’s opposition to the nomination as well. Meanwhile, Obama’s attorney general was in Oslo this week, but there was no public mention of the ambassador controversy.
Stang has faced some criticism over his unusual decision to write a letter to Obama, asking him to finally send a “professional” diplomat to Norway instead of a political supporter. Bjørn Hansen, a former foreign correspondent for state broadcaster NRK, wrote in a column in newspaper Dagsavisen that the appointment of a US ambassador is the prerogative of US president, not the mayor of Oslo. Obama has nominated businessman George J Tsunis to the post, after Tsunis donated heavily to Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, but Tsunis displayed an ignorance of Norwegian affairs at his Senate confirmation hearing that set off an outcry both in Norway and the US.
T Michael Davis, a Minneapolis lawyer active in the campaign against Tsunis, applauded Stang’s initiative, noting that while members of the national government are “restricted” in how they can respond to the Tsunis nomination, Stang was acting “in the best interests” of both Oslo and Norway. “Mayor Stang has certainly made clear his own and the City of Oslo’s true friendship to the Norwegian-American relationship, which we all care very much about,” Davis wrote in an email to newsinenglish.no. “Over here we will remember this.”
Obama was in Minnesota, home to the US’ largest Norwegian-American population, late last week and his attorney general Eric Holder was in Oslo this week. There was no public mention of the ambassador controversy either place and Obama reportedly avoided the topic in remarks at a fundraising event for Democrats. Both senators from Minnesota, both Democrats, have already said they’ll vote against his nomination. Holder, meanwhile, concentrated on learning and raving about Norway’s efforts to prevent radicalization of, for example, Islamic extremists. It was the first time in 10 years that a sitting US Attorney General had visited Norway after being invited by Norway’s justice minister, Anders Anundsen, who hails from the Progress Party that Tsunis offended at his confirmation hearing. Holder also spent time visiting Prime Minister Erna Solberg, whom Tsunis had referred to as a “president.”