The 3 Ambassador Nominees who have Waited the Longest for Confirmation are all Black

Saturday, December 20, 2014
John Estrada (photo: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

Now that George Tsunis has withdrawn his name as ambassador to Norway, the three would-be ambassadors who have waited the longest for their Senate confirmations all have one thing in common: they’re all African American.


All three are also considered political, rather than career Foreign Service, appointments. John Estrada, President Barack Obama’s choice for Trinidad and Tobago, has waited the longest of anyone: 504 days. He is a former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the highest-ranking enlisted Marine, and a native Trinidadian. After leaving the service, he worked at Lockheed Martin as a senior manager.


Cassandra Butts, selected to represent the U.S. in the Bahamas, has waited 308 days. She is a former law school classmate of Obama’s at Harvard who worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Harris Wofford (D-Pennsylvania) and Representative Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri). She also has worked for the NAACP and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank.


The next ambassador to Costa Rica, S. Fitzgerald Haney, has waited 161 days. Haney’s background is in finance, and has no diplomatic experience. But he has given substantial amounts of money to Obama’s presidential election campaigns. He contributed $30,800 to the Obama Victory Fund for the 2008 election and $75,800 to the group in the 2012 cycle and has given to other Democratic races as well.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Ambassadorial Confirmation Scorecard (by Charles Clark, Government Executive)

Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago: Who Is John Estrada? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas: Who Is Cassandra Butts? (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica: Who Is S. Fitzgerald Haney? (by Steve Straehley and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


Stephen Johnson 1 year ago
I hope this is just a coincidence - but all three have relevant experience either as a native Trini and a decorated soldier; as a nominee with deep policy experience or as an international businessman who lived in Latin America for 10 years and speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently. It is a shame any Ambassadorial nominee needs to wait due to Senate politics - but when we have so few people of color representing us as our top diplomats around the world - a delay in qualified black nominees it is doubly disturbing...President Obama should move these individuals forward via recess appointments.

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