George Tsunis's bumbling, cringeworthy confirmation hearing for US Ambassador to Norway was awful enough to offend even the most mild-mannered Norwegian. Stammering under the dubious glare of Sen. John McCain, the Long Island, New York resident looked like a 7th-grader trying to give a book report on a novel when he hadn't even bothered to glance at the SparkNotes.
Last Friday Tsunis, a big-time fundraiser for President Obama during the 2012 election, announced he was dropping his ambassador bid to the delight and relief of Norwegians everywhere.
"When I saw the confirmation hearing I was mortified," said Peter Russell, president of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis.
"I think Mr. Tsunis, although a great fundraiser for the Democratic Party, was ill-suited for a position in a country he had never been to, much less knew anything about," he added.
Local outrage over Tsunis's squirming display of ignorance during the February confirmation hearing was captured in a Star Tribune op-ed signed by several prominent Norwegian-Americans.
Nationally, Tsunis became the prime example of how ambassadorships are used as post-election thank you gifts for wealthy donors (See Kaplan, Sam and Sylvia) instead of a means to accomplish meaningful diplomacy. The Daily Show and Anderson Cooper used Tsunis to make that point in those hilarious-but-also-pretty-sad damning bits of political satire Stewart, Colbert and Oliver have mastered.
"I think the Norwegian people will be relieved because he really insulted them by knowing so little in his confirmation hearing," said Russell when we alerted him to the news of Tsunis's withdrawal last Friday.
"There are several people in the Norwegian community here in Minneapolis who have much closer ties to Norway and are much more well-versed in the bilateral relationship between the two countries," he said.
Send tips to Ben Johnson.