Friday, December 31, 2010
A senior White House official recently explained why U.S. President Barack Obama bypassed the Senate and “recess appoint" Francis Ricciardone as Ambassador to Ankara.
“The bilateral relationship with Turkey is key and it is important for the United States to have an Ambassador in place, particularly someone as well qualified and experienced as Ricciardone,” the official said. "The recess appointment will enable Ambassador Ricciardone to go soon to Ankara, where he is expected to be an extremely effective representative for the United States,” even though he is going to Turkey without the legislative branch’s endorsement.
Ambassador Ricciardone, during his confirmation hearing in last August told the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review that he was expecting to go to Turkey following Ramadan. However, Senator Brownback, a former Republican senator from and new governor of Kansas never lift his block on his nomination while he was in the Senate.
Mr. Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State under Colin Powell, and current president of Washington College, who worked with Ambassador Ricciardone in the past, said that he also supported the president’s recess appointment of Ricciardone. Reiss said what was done was a constitutional right for a U.S. president. “There was a chance the new Senate might also postpone the confirmation if president were to re-submit his name,” Reiss said, arguing that Congress was less than forthcoming in terms of giving the green light to the confirmation. “President Obama recognized Turkey’s importance and wanted to move ahead with Ricciardone,’’ Reiss said.
Reiss said relations between the countries were facing difficult and uncertain times and rejected the notion that a lame duck appointment would make an ambassador less effective than an ordinarily appointed one. “Nobody in Ankara will take Ricciardone lightly just because he did not receive the confirmation of the U.S. Senate,” Reiss said.
On the other hand, Republican congressional leaders lashed out at the White House’s recent recess appointments, as did Republican-leaning and conservative think tanks whose experts viewed the recess appointments as bad moves. Jamie Fly, executive director of the newly-founded Foreign Policy Initiative stated: “It is disappointing that President Obama made this recess appointment given Ambassador Ricciardone's track record in previous posts. We need an ambassador in Ankara who will stand up for U.S. interests even when they conflict with Turkey's desires. Ricciardone has shown himself unable to manage similarly difficult challenges in the past.”
Michael Rubin, Turkey expert at the American Enterprise Institute, another right wing and conservative think tank in Washington, said “the nature of recess appointments is that they tend to be lame ducks. The recess appointment lasts a year, and it's not often that a recess nominee is extended, if for no other reason than the Senate does not like when the President uses this tactic. Turkey might want a serious American representative with weight in Washington, but what they got is a controversial has-been who, at best, will be home before the year is out.”
Turkey’s Washington Embassy was satisfied with the appointment. Rauf Alp Denktaş, spokesman for Turkey’s Washington Embassy said that they “see the appointment as a positive development. It displays the importance that U.S. gives to Turkey.” Denktaş also said that
“Ambassador Ricciardone’s past experience with Turkey will help Turkey to convey its messages more easily to the U.S. administration.” The Turkish Embassy clearly believes that Ricciardone’s knowledge on Turkey will help him to make relations better between countries.
According to a Washington source who knows about the opposition to Ricciardone’s nomination in the Senate: “The U.S. administration took this decision to make a recess appointment because they didn’t feel confident that Ricciardone would sail though in the new Senate." In the new Senate there will be 47 Republican senators, adding eight new seats won at the November mid-term elections to their ranks.
A representative of the U.S. State Department, which held only one press briefing this week due to the holiday season, said over the phone that “the decision was made by the White House” and for now they had nothing to add. The official declined to comment whether or how much the White House consulted with the State Department about the recess appointment.