Kind of sad when you see a Freshman US Senator get appointed and immediately hijacked by lobbying groups who have deeply parochial interests that run against the nation’s and even Senator George LeMieux‘s own state of Florida.
Last night, the US Senate finally moved to confirm Obama-nominated Georgetown Professor Arturo Valenzuela as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs and the incumbent in that job, Thomas Shannon, as US Ambassador to Brazil. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate itself was able to finally overcome the holds placed by Senator Jim DeMint who has been waging a one man battle to get someone to pay respect to Honduras coup officials.
But as the machinery for the vote was unfolding, the recently appointed frosh Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) — appointed to fill Senator Mel Martinez’s vacated seat — placed a hold on Shannon’s nomination, allegedly at the behest of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC that is ticked for Shannon’s handling of the Cuba OAS resolution earlier this year.
I hope that Barack Obama’s team — including National Security Council Western Hemisphere Director Dan Restrepo — and those higher up the chain like NSC Deputy Tom Donilon — get a sense of who the reasonable players in the US-Cuba policy debate are who are working hard for Obamaesque strategies with Cuba — vs. those who are still trying to keep the freezers blowing on the last refuge of the Cold War.
— Steve Clemons