Don’t send Tsunis to Norway

Minnesotans of Norwegian descent make up about 16.5 percent of the state’s population. Over 18 percent of the nation’s Norwegian Americans live in Minnesota (a good number of them in Hanska).

So Minnesotans have a right to be concerned about the kind of ambassador the U.S. sends to represent us in Norway.

President Barack Obama has nominated a Long Island hotelier, George Tsunis, to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway. His qualifications are that he was adept at delivering lots of major contributions to the Obama campaign fund. While presidents have long made it a habit to reward their supporters and backers with ambassadorships, most ambassadorial appointees have some working knowledge of the country they will be sent to. Tsunis’s knowledge of Norway seems to have been gathered from watching the Norwegian Chef in the Muppet movies.

At his confirmation hearing recently, Tsunis displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about Norway. He referred to Norway’s prime minister as its “president” (Norway doesn’t have a president, it is a constitutional monarchy), and he referred Norway’s third largest political party, which makes up part of the governing coalition, as a “fringe element” that “spews hatred.” He admitted he had never been to Norway and couldn’t answer rudimentary questions about trade opportunities with Norway.

Norwegian politicians and media have expressed their disappointment with Tsunis.

Minnesota’s Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, have said they would vote against him, as did South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, another Democrat.

Mr. Tsunis should save the Senate the trouble of voting against his confirmation and save President Obama the embarassment of withdrawing his nomination by pulling out of consideration.

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