"Laughable" candidate for US AMB to Greece appears to clear Senate hearings
When the White House nominated late last year George Tsunis, a Greek-American millionaire hotel developer and Democratic party donor, as the next US Ambassador to Greece, media reports broke into laughs.
Tsunis had resoundingly bangled an earlier nomination by Barak Obama for serving as ambassador to Norway. Tsunis was also cited as knowing next to nothing about Hellas past spinach pie and the Parthenon. Foreign policy experts and former US diplomats added their own deep doubts about the Ole Joe’s wisdom in choosing Tsunis for the post at a time of US-Greek relations entering a period of upgraded political-military ties.
It now appears that these universally negative opinions about Tsunis mobilized Ole Joe’s backroom emergency intervention team to decisively bolster this longtime Democratic party donor—and the move apparently had the desired impact.
During the January 12 hearings, Tsunis enjoyed a session completely bereft of challenging questions about Greek politics, security, and foreign relations.
The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator George Menendez, a Democrat and lifelong friend of Greece, delivered a strong opening statement in favor of Tsunis (Menendez was the prime recommender of the Tsunis candidacy). Tsunis read a professionally, and obviously ghost-written, statement and won the nomination without a hitch.
What follows will be interesting to watch and, quite possibly, a cliff-hanger. Greece has recently emerged the key US strategic pivot in EastMed. Tsunis possesses next to zero experience in international security, in general, and/or the particulars influencing US-Greek political and strategic relations, in particular.
He will be hard-pressed in attempting to navigate Greek domestic politics and government—and a sociopolitical environment that can turn strongly anti-American at the drop of a hat. The new ambassador will also face the intricacies of Greek-Russian relations that currently undergo yet another stress period thanks to the Ukraine crisis.
I expect Greek media to have a field day with Tsunis’s (almost inevitable) public missteps, something that will put pressure on the embassy’s career diplomats in the role of firefighters—and could unduly stress Greek-American relations at a most inopportune time.
‘He’s a punchline’: ‘laughable’ pick for Greece envoy puts pressure on Biden
George Tsunis, who gave hapless display when nominated as Norway ambassador under Obama, to go before Senate committee
Joe Biden has styled himself as a defender of democracy but, critics say, is setting the worst possible example with his choice of envoy to Athens.
The US president nominated George Tsunis, a hotel developer and Democratic donor with no diplomatic experience, as US ambassador to Greece.
When Tsunis seeks confirmation at a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Wednesday, he will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the train wreck that was his last appearance there eight years ago.
On that occasion Tsunis was Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Norway. Bumbling and ill-prepared, he admitted that he had never been to Norway and referred to the country as having a president when, as a constitutional monarchy, it does not.
Tsunis also claimed that Norway’s Progress party was among “fringe elements” that “spew their hatred” and was criticized by Norway’s government. In fact, the Progress party was part of the governing coalition.
The hapless nominee withdrew from consideration after causing dismay among Norwegian Americans and earning ridicule on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Now he is getting a do-over that, critics maintain, he does not deserve.
Greek American praised at hearing to become U.S. envoy to Athens
George Tsunis, a Greek American businessman who fumbled a 2014 Senate hearing to be U.S. ambassador to Norway and withdrew from consideration, won praise on Wednesday at a hearing on his nomination to be the U.S. envoy to Greece.
Former U.S. diplomats have sharply criticized the choice of the hotel developer and political donor for the Athens post, saying his lack of preparation in 2014 showed he was unfit to represent the United States abroad.
At that hearing, Tsunis erroneously referred to Norway as having a president and suggested the Norwegian government had criticized a political party that was then part of the governing coalition.
On Wednesday, he was asked only one substantive question - on China's purchases of critical infrastructure such as Greece's largest port of Piraeus - and answered it to the satisfaction of the Democrat who asked it and a Republican senator.
Tsunis fails his nomination as ambassador to Norway.