Monday, October 6, 2008

Faleomavaega the Foreign Affairs Expert?

Faleomavaega has made no secret of the fact that he is more interested in foreign affairs than insular policy. He even put out a statement that he turned down the chairmanship of the insular subcommittee when it was offered to him in December 2006 in favor of accepting the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and International Environment Affairs. Those who are apprehensive about Gov. Sarah Palin, with no foreign policy experience, being a heart beat away from the presidency ought to be almost as concerned that Faleomavaega is but a couple of heart beats from the chairmanship of the full Foreign Affairs committee. Fortunately the two members more senior than he is are younger and in better health. Then again, the late Tom Lantos also looked pretty healthy.

It is no secret that there are a lot of Democrats in the foreign policy establishment who are hoping the perpetually exhausted and lame, and often incoherent Faleomavaega either retires or gets beat because he is a loose cannon that no one can control. No one is ever quite sure what is going to come out of his mouth. Mercifully, he travels a lot, so diplomats in Washington can breathe a sigh of relief but when he is around, people brace themselves. And he also periodically demonstrates his ignorance or at least lack of preparation .

The former president of the Marshall Islands is Kessai Note, has a last name that is pronounced as in "vote." But Faleomavaega addressed him at one Capitol Hill gathering as President "No-tay." Blame it on sloppy staff work if you will but when Note came back into town a year later for chair the Pacific Island Leaders summit, Faleomavaega again introduced him at a gathering as No-tay.

Moreover, at a Papua New Guinea independence day reception, Faleomavaega was invited to speak as the senior congressional representative in attendance. The PNG ambassador notably cringed when Faleomavaega used the ceremonial occasion to bang on Indonesia for its policy towards West Papua, even though Indonesian and U.S. diplomats were in the room and his views do not match the policy of either government. The ambassador also must have noted that Faleomavaega referred to his country as "the Republic of Papua New Guinea" when PNG is a member of the Commonwealth that recognizes the Queen of England as its head of state, so it is in fact not a republic at all.

We also have seen a lobbyist's confidential memo to his clients on Korean issues from a couple of years ago in which he calls Faleomavaega a lightweight that the then-chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), tolerated primarily because he always count on Faleomavaega to sign up for committee trips, and that would give the trips bi-partisan cover.

Now, more recently, the noted Turkish intellectual, Ali BulaƧ, attended a congressional hearing and wrote an article, "Impressions from the United States," on the World Bulletin blog. Let his words speak for themselves: "Last week, a special session on the Georgian crisis and relations with Russia was held at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried gave a speech at the meeting and answered questions from committee members. Democrat Eni Faleomavaega, one of the members of the committee, asked this question: 'Was Turkey invited to NATO?' Fried replied, 'Sir, Turkey has been a NATO member for 56 years.' Read it here: How embarrassing. Especially since Faleomavaega was one of the co-sponsors of the ill-fated resolution that passed the committee last year that condemned Turkey for genocide policy towards Armenians during World War I. The protests from Turkey and Turkish Americans were so strong that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the measure pulled from the House calendar.

So much for all the foreign affairs expertise Faleomavaega clearly has not accumulated over nearly 20 years in the House.

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