It's offical: David Wilkins, Speaker of the South Carolina House, has been confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Canada, a country with which the U.S. supposedly has a "deep, close and enduring relationship."
Although it's hard to imagine someone worse than Bush's previous rep to Canada, the abrasive Paul Cellucci, Canadians like this poster at DKos are underwhelmed by the decision: "David who?"
As the Canadian press wryly notes, Wilkins appears to be lacking in credentials:
Canada will be new territory for Wilkins. His first and only trip there was in the 1970s when he was in the army Reserve. Wilkins also doesn't speak French, although he did take three years of the language in college ... He is preparing for his job by "reading a lot of materials and getting briefed by a lot of smart people in the State Department."
Nothing like on-the-fly international diplomacy -- it's worked so well elsewhere.
It also appears that Wilkins' nomination process was something less than rigorous: although news accounts point to a "screening" conducted by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he was "quizzed on trade, border access and other security issues," I doubt Wilkins sweated the ordeal:
Mr. Wilkins arrived at Room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building to find Mr. Coleman was the lone interrogator, sitting at a table full of empty chairs. His hearing was bundled together with those for diplomatic nominees to Latin American outposts like Panama, Ecuador, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
And while Canada is the United States's largest trading partner and a frequent target of U.S. criticism over border security, Mr. Wilkins faced less than seven minutes of perfunctory questions about the Canadian job before being excused.
So where did they find this Wilkins character? Apparently in Bush's "political favors" rolodex:
While Mr. Wilkins lacks specific expertise on Canada, supporters said his strength is a strong personal relationship with Mr. Bush. The South Carolina lawmaker was instrumental in helping Mr. Bush secure his state's backing in the 2000 Republican primaries.
Nothing but the best for our "deep, close and enduring" friends.