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Ambassador To Argentina Nominee Has Never Been To the Country

As if Victoria Nuland's leaked phone call wasn't enough, here's a diplomatic embarrassment that hasn't made as many headlines: President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Argentina made a fairly stunning admission before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, asked Noah Bryson Mamet: "Mr. Mamet, have you been to Argentina?"

Mamet answered: "I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there. I've traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven't yet had a chance."

Mamet is not the first to embarrass himself in front of the Senate.

Fortuitously, Politico ran a story today looking at that very issue. It's titled: "Why Does America Send So Many Stupid, Unqualified Hacks Overseas?"

The simple answer is that top diplomatic jobs don't go to life-long foreign service professionals who know what they're talking about. Instead, they go to political donors.

Mamet, for example, is listed by as a "bundler." That means that he collected campaign contributions for Obama. Mamet bundled $500,000 for the president in 2012.

Politico points out that Obama vowed to curb the practice of using diplomatic posts as political gifts. Instead, the site reports, more than half of his second term appointments have gone to political allies.

We'll leave you a with a couple of more stumblers, courtesy of Politico:

"When hotel magnate George Tsunis, Obama's nominee for Oslo, met with the Senate last month, he made clear that he didn't know that Norway was a constitutional monarchy and wrongly stated that one of the ruling coalition political parties was a hate-spewing "fringe element." Another of the president's picks, Colleen Bell, who is headed to Budapest, could not answer questions about the United States' strategic interests in Hungary. But could the president really expect that she'd be an expert on the region? Her previous gig was as a producer for the TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. She stumbled through responses to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) like, well, a soap opera star, expounding on world peace. When the whole awkward exchange concluded, the senator grinned. "I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees," McCain said sarcastically."

Update at 6:53 p.m. ET.As some of our readers have pointed out, it is only fair to point out that the practice of handing ambassadorships to political allies precedes President Obama by a long shot.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.