Colleen Bell, US ambassador designate to Hungary, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Let’s move from Budapest to Washington today. On September 26, 2013 I wrote about the likelihood that the next ambassador to Hungary will a political appointee, Colleen Bell, producer of the TV soap “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

At the time I expressed my dismay over the appointment. Not because I had anything against Ms Bell but because I consider the political situation so serious in Hungary that I think it would behoove US interests to have a career diplomat with some knowledge of the region and experience in diplomacy representing the American government on the spot.

Political appointees come from the ranks of those well-heeled people who not only give generously to the political party in power but also solicit large donations from others. Colleen Bell was apparently the source of about a million dollars to the Obama campaigns. Currently there are 32 ambassadorial candidates waiting to be confirmed by the Senate, out of whom 18 are political appointees. The Senate is in no great hurry; the candidates have been on hold for about four months.

Colleen Bradley Bell at the Senate Confirmation Hearing on January 16, 2014

Colleen Bradley Bell at the Senate Confirmation Hearing on January 16, 2014

On January 16 Colleen Bell appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Normally she is quite a fashion plate, but for the occasion she dressed more like a nun, all in black with a small white collar. Obviously, she wanted to be very professional looking. Beside her were two other candidates: Robert C. Barber, a lawyer who is heading to Iceland, and George Tsunis, a Long Island businessman who is going to be sent to Norway.

Each candidate delivered a statement, which started with the usual niceties about the trust President Obama and Secretary Kerry placed in them and with thanks for the support of their families. Bell, after relating the close partnership of the two countries in military matters and their common interest in security as NATO allies, came to the important part of American concerns. Let me quote the relevant passages verbatim:

At the same time, we have been open over the last two years about our concerns about the state of checks and balances in Hungary and the independence of some key institutions. Many argue that sweeping legislative and constitutional changes have hurt the international investment climate, undermined property rights, weakened the judiciary, and centralized power in the hands of the executive.
The United States has not been alone in this regard. The perceived erosion of
democratic checks and balances has garnered scrutiny from various bodies within
the European Union. If confirmed, I will work tirelessly to uphold American and
European democratic values, to express our concerns where appropriate, and to
urge our Hungarian partners to work collaboratively with international partners and
civil society on these issues.

The idea of pluralism is integral to our understanding of what it means to be
a democracy. Democracies recognize that no one entity — no state, no political
party, no leader — will ever have all the answers to the challenges we face. And,
depending on their circumstances and traditions, people need the latitude to work
toward and select their own solutions. Our democracies do not and should not look
the same. Governments by the people, for the people, and of the people will reflect
the people they represent. But we all recognize the reality and importance of these
differences. Pluralism flows from these differences.

The United States has also expressed concern about the rise of extremism
which unfortunately is a trend not unique to Hungary. However, the rise in
Hungary of extremist parties is of particular concern. If confirmed, protecting and
promoting a climate of tolerance will be one of my key priorities.

The Hungarian government has undertaken a series of steps to address
lingering hatred and the legacy of the Holocaust, to include planned events in 2014
to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the large scale deportations to Auschwitz,
and the 2015 assumption of the Presidency of the International Holocaust
Remembrance Alliance. If confirmed, I look forward to working with government
organizations, civic and religious groups, and other stakeholders to confront and
defeat prejudice and hatred in all of its forms.

After delivering the statements, the senators asked a few questions. The Democrats gentle and helpful ones. George Tsunis, who was perhaps the weakest of the three, managed to fumble even on the helpful question of one of the Democratic senators. There were two interesting exchanges relating to the confirmation hearing of Ms Bell. One was a fatherly warning by Senator Ben Cardin (D), co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, who is very well informed on the latest developments in Budapest. He warned Bell that her stay in Budapest is not going to be a picnic. She has to prepare herself to use tough language. She shouldn’t be misled by promises given to her by government officials because they are in the habit of saying one thing at home and another thing when they talk with foreigners. “You have the responsibility to take a very strong role.” Cardin encouraged Bell to keep in touch with Congress and take advice from them if necessary.

Then came a few very uncomfortable moments when John McCain (R) took over, who certainly wasn’t as nice as his Democratic colleagues. McCain wanted specifics. Bell talked about opportunities for closer cooperation but what kind of cooperation did she have in mind? Bell was unable to expand on or add anything to what was in her written statement.  McCain was not satisfied and, after mentioning that Bell’s predecessor had a very hard time with the Hungarian government, asked her what she would do differently. Unfortunately Bell had no answer to this question. And then came the final blow. McCain wanted to know what the strategic interest of the United States is in Hungary? It looked as if Ms Bell didn’t even understand the question.

Colleen Bell graduated with high honors from Sweet Briar College, majoring in political science and economics, and spent a year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Presumably she’s not stupid. So, the only thing I can think of is that she was not well prepared by the State Department. One had the feeling that the only thing she knows about Hungarian politics is what is in her written statement. But she had 123 days to prepare for this hearing and her future duties as ambassador to Hungary. She didn’t seem to have been a diligent student.

Ms Bell’s performance wasn’t the worst of the three, but there is no question that her post is the most difficult one. Norway and Ireland are democratic countries where the ambassador’s job will be a great deal less stressful than that of the US ambassador to Hungary. Let’s hope that Ms Bell will learn fast and will be able to be tough as Senator Cardin suggested. Because this is the only way with Viktor Orbán.

68 comments

  1. I am a devoted reader of this column. I have many close friends in Hungary (admittedly mainly in Budapest..) — The bottom line in Hungary, as it is here, or anywhere else where this is some semblance of democracy and, at least, some freedom of expression and the opportunity to vote — NO ONE CAN HELP THE HUNGARIANS except themselves. Educated, liberal, intelligent, democractic Hungarians must make PERSONAL SACRIFICES to connect with their peers, establish a coherent vision for the country and get into the streets, form parties, whatever, and TAKE BACK THEIR DEMOCRACY … there is just NO OTHER WAY for Hungary to right itself.

  2. I would add that it was in the comments of yesterday’s comment or the day before’s where a reader posited a ‘realpolitik’ view of just what the United States’ strategic interest is in Hungary. It was a bleak assessment that seemed to conclude that it’s actually not much in the USA’s interest to facilitate or persuade change in Hungary.. unfortunately… I’ll go see if I can find the relevant comments and quote them here.

  3. Well done by McCain. Let’s hope he’s the next president of the US. And, while Bush II was largely laughable, I don’t think that Hungary and Russia behaved as they have in the last three years. (Any more ‘resets’, President Obama?)

  4. Terrible perfomance.Unreal.The only intelligent and knowledgeable thing about her was the way she dressed -“trying to appear professional”.No wonder that the US foreign policy in general is a catastrophe.This whole system is one of legal-institutionalized corruption.Unbelievable yet real.

    But I just don’t understand why these people want these jobs.Why ? If they don’t care to learn anything it means that they don’t care about the job itself- about politics and diplomacy.Then why do they want the jobs ? To spend few fun years in Budapest and do “embassy parties” ? Just a mystery to me.

  5. Ovidiu, I hope you agree with me that the guy who will be going to Norway was truly terrible. And this guy was introduced as a true expert on foreign affairs.

  6. I remember when in early 2011 many of the intellectuals in media (on Atv and other platforms) argued that US diplomacy will soon be tough enough to prevent or even stop Orbán to implement further radical, anti-democratic actions. Then nothing happened (at least nothing which would had clear results).
    Following that, at around mid and late 2011 and during 2012 people who were shocked by the government actions made by then trusted that the EU will help and impose such pressure on the government under which it may step back a little. Nothing happened. In the first half of 2013 many believed that the Tavares report will have some sort effect or at least accelerates things on EU level. Nothing happened, except that the government laughed into the face of the EU. During the summer of 2013, in their final desperation these people believed that (such belief – in my view – having been only a desperate hope) that Angela Merkel will step in after the elections in Germany and the only reason that she waited so long was the forthcoming election. Nothing happened.
    Not that Hungary should be treated as the centre of the world, but these people are very disappointed and tend to see the US and EU as being too soft, so much to the words and nothing to the actions. Within the country these people feel very isolated and yet they do not feel to receive any support from the part of the world they respect. May be its not the best comparison but history has seen similar attitude from the west right before wwII, and they have acted only when things became irreversible, which will soon happen in Hungary…in April at the latest.

  7. McCain had some good questions to Bell. But did he ever answered the questions what kind of answer he was expecting.

    Btw What is the strategic interest of the United States is in Hungary? Anybody?

  8. My feeling is that the current majority thinking in the US, and that includes the administration is that the US does not have strategic interests outside its boundaries, thanks to fracking.

    But I am not there now, I am not sure about this.

  9. @Varese – I agree that only Hungarians could take back their democracy. I always argued that ultimately what is happenings, is happing because the vast majority agrees with that (directly or indirectly). But i disagree from the perspective that there is minority which cries for support. These people supported Eu accession mainly bc of its democratic values guaranteed in its very founding treaty. Back in the 90s and early 2000s people understood this clearly whilst did not care much about the free flow of capital which they did not have. No one believed to the propaganda that Hungarians will open their shops in Vienna etc., but they believed that after the dictatorships in Hungary in the 20th century there will be some sort of calming down and protection against having that again. And the Eu failed on this one. This will lead to consequences far beyond the Hungarian issue. If the EU cannot do anything to enforce the majority of the terms of its treaty, then it will remain a piece of paper without effect. Then other countries will follow the Hungarian example and people will soon realise across europe that the EU is simply an economic union (and not even that, given the large differences, not to mention the different currencies) compared to what is communicated all the time that deeper integration is necessary etc. If those EU politicians, who are in charge, and who are arguing continuously that deeper integration is required, EU has values etc. are incompetent to provide more than big words, then they have a serious responsibility in respect of the future of the EU which will be exactly the opposite of what they wish according to their communication. The help is not due because of Hungary is an independent country…the help is due because Hungary transferred part of its sovereignty, because the EU supposed to be a democratic club, and because of these the Hungarian democratic problem supposed to be also a problem of the EU. At least this is what people like me believe to make the Hungarian issue different from e.g. the issue of Uzbegistan or others who are not part of the EU.

  10. Ovidiu :
    But I just don’t understand why these people want these jobs.Why ? If they don’t care to learn anything it means that they don’t care about the job itself- about politics and diplomacy.Then why do they want the jobs ? To spend few fun years in Budapest and do “embassy parties” ? Just a mystery to me.

    Sounds good when they talk about it at the next cocktail party.

  11. To read the full statement go to http://photos.state.gov/libraries/hungary/231771/PDFs/bell_testimony.pdf

    In response Janos Martonyi, the Foreign Minister of Hungary, acknowledged that there are disputes between the U.S. and Hungary, but “most of those are based on misunderstandings and false information.” He spoke at a Friends of Hungary conference yesterday.

    I think it is also important to note that Ms. Bell’s statement included comments supporting Hungarian military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hungary is one of countries participating in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Seven Hungarians died in Afghanistan. Two EOD members were killed by IEDs. Two were killed in a convoy attack by the Taliban. Two died in a vehicle accident during a convoy-escort task. One died because of a heart attack. Also, 14 Hungarian soldiers have been wounded in action in Afghanistan according to NATO reports.

    Hungary sent a 300 strong logistics unit to Iraq in order to help the US occupation with armed transport convoys, though Hungarian public opinion opposed the country’s participation in the war. One soldier was killed in action due to a roadside bomb in Iraq. The Hungarian Parliament refused to extend the one year mandate of the logistics unit and all troops left from Iraq as of mid-January 2005. The US was not happy about that but the commitment to the war in Afghanistan was more to the liking of US military leaders.

    While relative to US losses in these two wars Hungary’s losses are insignificant, none the less Hungary, Croatia, and Poland have provided valuable international cover for these failed occupations in the name of the war on terror. For such service much can be forgotten, no doubt Senator McCain’s question about US national interest in Hungary related to potential military/logistical services Hungary could provide US forces in various international adventures.

    As we all know here in the US Senator McCain is the son of a US navy admiral and was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for many years who was tortured several times by his captors.

    As a retired member of the US armed forces I have the greatest respect for Senator McCain’s service, but none the less his support for the occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan have proven to be disastrous. Iraq now after withdrawal of US forces is now in crisis with many being killed in a low level civil war, and Afghanistan waits for the final withdrawal as does the Taliban. The US Army in particular is exhausted and our reserve units that served in some cases one and a half years in combat are depleted. A complete rebuilding of ground forces will be required just like what took place after the Vietnam War.

    Ms. Bell is a light weight and has limited knowledge of central Europe, although I suspect she has been reading up. I think it is evident by this appointment, Hungary is not exactly on the front burner of US foreign policy. Ms. Bell’s statement also included a reference to Hungary’s assistance in trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. I have not heard of this, have others?

  12. tappanch :
    My feeling is that the current majority thinking in the US, and that includes the administration is that the US does not have strategic interests outside its boundaries, thanks to fracking.
    But I am not there now, I am not sure about this.

    This is difficult to accept during an administration whose head is against fracking.

  13. Poor Madách…

    The designated sculptor of the “Reich eagle” memorial, Mr. P. Párkányi Raab, will be awarded the Madách prize on Friday. The artist also sculpted the Nazi writer Albert Wass five years ago.

    Previous recipients of the prize included journalist Zs. Bayer, who distinguished himself with carrying member card #5 of Fidesz and writing several viciously anti-Semitic articles.

    With the Russian money in his pocket, Orban dares to create a Holocaust praising year in 2014.

  14. “With the Russian money in his pocket…”

    And there, I dare say, it’s mingling with not a few Azeri euros…

  15. The Obama Government foreign policy is deplorable and lousy, so are some of the the political appointees. Hungary is not very high on the list of countries where the US has “strategic interest”, but even so, the point is well taken. Ms Bell did not study enough and ill prepared to do the job. Her appointment and preparedness is typical of the whole Obama Administration. Just plain amateurs.

  16. About the strategic interest USA may have regarding Hungary: the interset is not one of the most compelling kind, Hungary, after all, is a small country, it is indirect through the interest we have in a strong, unified, democratic European Union. The Union is an important ally, counterbalancing especially the great Chinese and Russian political and economical powers. Hungary, with its actions is undermining the unity of the EU, therefore weakening it, by systematically destroying the checks and balances in governing, using authoritative methods for dictating economical measures, attacking many aspects of the European governing and legal principles, etc., (see the comprehensive evaluation by Kim Scheppele). The most significant event in that respect is the recent agreement with Russia on expanding the Paks atomic facility. It will tie Hungary to Russian economic, and therefore economic interests for generations. This not only weakens the EU, it simultaneously strengthens Putin’s Russia. The EU is practically impotent against the devilishly clever Orbáns strategy, the reasons and methods of which would be the subject for another discussion, and that will ecourage, or already has done so, the likes of Ukrain, and Rumania to contradict European principles, thereby to enfeeble its unity and effectiveness. This is surely not in the interest of the Us.

  17. “…thereby to enfeeble its unity and effectiveness. This is surely not in the interest of the US.”

    Boys, boys, surely it’s a little more complex than that.
    With the Russians reduced to a mad-cap group of thieving billionaires who wouldn’t allow their government to even build a road to St. Petersburg (without stealing all the funds), there’s precious little for the juggernaut of the American military-industrial complex to worry about.
    I suspect that the yanks are lying low vis-a-vis Russia, allowing a numbskull like Hillary to produce the laughable ‘reset’ which the Russkies (as the US brains expected) trampled all over
    in a few tenderloin spots of the world. Well, never mind: let them feel their oats for a while.

    The real danger, in terms of brain power and knowledge and competitive potential…was Europe. Thus the yanks, fully knowing the asinine Orban’s skulldudgery and the Russkies little
    game in Eastern Europe…lie low and let the disturbance wreck havoc in EU attempts to solidify.

    And China? China is hog-tied with US debt. By the way, the last time a country was gobbling
    up US debt was Japan prior to 1990. If I remember right, there was a little war, not a little
    induced by an American ambassador in the middle east giving Sadam a nonchalant signal, that resulted in bringing a country to its knees–Japan.

    So let’s give the Pentagon boys some credit of playing a ‘deep game’. And Hungary, in the hands of an adrenaline junky psychopath, is just the mearest tool in a much larger game (save in the imagination of little Viktor where he towers above all others.)

  18. Individual observers can speculate on orchestrated, long time esoteric ideas in politics and policies, but even a small Government cannot be held to follow such foolish notions.
    Governments, especially as large as the US, Chinese, EU, Indian and Russian Governments, are not orchestras, which various conductors can keep playing a different beat and harmony according to their own interpretations of the music, somebody already written and perhaps somebody else orchestrated. Politics are not considered games to most politicians, only seems that way to billions of citizens.

  19. The issue re Russia is different. Russia, just like China plans for the long term. They have long term strategies, which the follow regardless of any change in the government. Turkey and Iran are similar. This kind of long-term strategic planning is unknown to the West, where governments come and go, priorities shift. Never happens in Russia.

    For example, Russia’ priority it is too keep its territorial integrity, and secondly to keep the geographical sphere of interest to which Russia decided it was entitled.

    Hungary unfortunately fell into the second category. Russia, according to the its current deeply nationalistic and authoritarian ideologists and decision-makers, made a historical mistake by allowing the former Eastern bloc countries to enter the Eu and Nato and they will not make this mistake again. To the contrary, the have been tirelessly working to reverse that mistake.

    By other means, by any means necessary, Russia must ensure that these countries return to the orbit of Russia. And the Russians are smart. They directly finance parties such as Jobbik and do more complex deals with others, such as with Fidesz, from which deals Fidesz’ decision-makers will benefit. (Query as to MSZP’s intentions. I am sure right now MSZP is the biggest worry of the Russians and they are working on it as we speak). Russia has mastered the art of “persuasion”.

    Now the deeper problem is that Russia cares infinitely more about its own sphere of interest than the West cares about these countries. The sad thing is the on Paks II Russia will make huge profits, it is not like at all that it became all of a sudden generous, rather, it will let Fidesz (and others potentially, if only they let themselves persuaded) to make the reaping of the century.

    But the issue is would anybody in the West care about Hungary so much that they would allow Fideszniks to get away with billions of Euros? Because if this is something they are unwilling to do (despite all the shenanigans they do all the time, eg. Iraq), then the party which is more willing to win over the contested sphere of interest, actually wins. The point to take away is that the West does not care. They care a bit, but not that much. Meanwhile, we are unfortunately top priority for Russia. And this will never change, not in the next couple of decades.

    So Russia – it seems for the moment – won, and Hungary will serve Russia twofold: it will pay in cash for the unnecessary construction and operation of Paks 2 and it will be a puppet of Russia within the Eu and the Nato, both of which Russia designated as mortal enemies to its very existence.

  20. Thank you, I could not have written a better analysis. Saves me the time, and I agree with everything you presented in your comment. I would only add the obvious; The two blocks at Paks will be far more expensive, than 3,000 Billion Forints, I estimate it to cost more than 7,000 Billions, by the time it will start operation and about 25-30% of it will go into the pockets of the Fidesz thieves. This unnecessary investment may weaken the Hungarian currency also.

  21. Varese :
    I am a devoted reader of this column. I have many close friends in Hungary (admittedly mainly in Budapest..) — The bottom line in Hungary, as it is here, or anywhere else where this is some semblance of democracy and, at least, some freedom of expression and the opportunity to vote — NO ONE CAN HELP THE HUNGARIANS except themselves. Educated, liberal, intelligent, democractic Hungarians must make PERSONAL SACRIFICES to connect with their peers, establish a coherent vision for the country and get into the streets, form parties, whatever, and TAKE BACK THEIR DEMOCRACY … there is just NO OTHER WAY for Hungary to right itself.

    So true, And this is why nothing will happen in Hungary. People don’t see what democracy can do for them but instead prefer a cut in their electricity bill. Lack of long term view and choosing the easy way out is a quite typical feature for most Hungarians I know. Mind you, in the end it will prove to be a very rough and bumpy ride. A well deserved one.

  22. Mr. Orban said that the German occupation memorial will be built. Amen to that.

    District V already issued the building license. What can we do? I mean it is now, after all, a licensed building structure.

    The rule of law dictates that if it is legal then there can be no problem with the construction. I hope you all agree. Do we or do we not want to live in a country defined by the rule of law? I can only hope that our political adversaries will understand it too that we are building a country based on the utmost respect of the rule of law here.

    So the memorial has to be built, the official paper says it. The local municipality in accordance with the rules on local democracy so resolved. The central government must respect that. I am sure our Americans friends will understand that as even the federal government is not omnipotent vis-a-vis the states. Is that not so?

    So now that it has the official stamp on it, there is nothing we can do now. Sorry. The project will go ahead.

    Also, the am I not right in saying that the Jews should finally stop whining and support a noble cause? I mean would it be so hard for them to do so just once?

    The losses of Hungary in 1944 were just too big for the Jews to appropriate this issue again.

    The soul of the nation must heal.

    It is high time for that.

    The memorial will accomplish this goal and let it forever serve as a place where ordinary Hungarians can come to in order to pay their respects and quietly contemplate important historical issues.

  23. 1.
    Rogan (mayor of district 5 & Fidesz parliamentary leader) pushed through the Reich eagle memorial this morning.

    2.
    Koves of Chabad said yesterday that

    “Van egy pont, amikor valamit bojkottálni kell, de ebben az esetben még nem érkezett el ez a pont”

    The time has not arrived yet to boycott [the government].

    I am translating: he continues to support Fidesz and divide the message of the Jewish remnants of Hungary.

  24. @Bertalan

    Jews “whine” only in Nazi parlance.

    Orban is erecting a Nazi memorial on Freedom square.
    THis is an affront to the memory of the murdered.

    THis is an outrage, that pushes Hungary’s image into the mud, again.

  25. There are several “interesting” aspects being discussed here:

    Hungary is a small not really important country for the USA as well as for the EU – so if things don’t go too wrong, who cares …

    Hungarians (like all the other people in the former Eastern Bloc) expected immediate fruits from joining Capitalism – as they saw it on tv and heard about it from relatives who made it in(to) the West – of course they were disappointed.

    They have forgotten about WW2 and Hungary’s involvement in it and don’t want to be reminded that they fought on the wrong side.

    Russia wants a foot (or both …) into the EU, doesn’t really care which country it uses. It wants back control over all of Eastern Europe.

    So what does it all mean ?

    If they don’t help themselves they’ll be again the “Spielball” of the big forces and of course only the power elite will profit from all this, the others (i e the large majority) are just not important – they have to consider themselves lucky not to be used as cannon fodder again.

    And the capitalists in the EU are quite happy with the different income levels and discrepancies between the West and the East – they serve to tell us Germans i e:

    You’re lucky making so much money and enjoying that freedom – if you don’t behave we’ll import more of those obedient workers from the East!

  26. Sorry, in this sentence “If they don’t help themselves”, “they” means the Hungarians …

  27. Bertalan only shows how easy it is to write in the style of Fidesz. tt is extremely predictable. One can almost use an algorithm, a kind of bullshit generator which of course must write outrageous enough texts.

    I agree that this memorial is outrageous, perhaps the most immediately outrageous thing (in line with Paks II) of the four years, even though there have been countless others.

    But one should not forget something: Fidesz loves nothing better then when its adversaries are outraged. Winning for them is never enough. The defeated (ie. leftist, liberal, people with normal feelings and intellect) must also be humiliated and tormented too, mjust be made the butts of jokes. They should realize that they have been defeated for good and there is no hope for them (given the election system and the government’s control over media). They must thoroughly internalize that feeling.

  28. I am guessing Mazsihisz will support the memorial after all. It will not let Chabad to be The Jewish organization which supports Fidesz, when Chabad is already the favored one. I hope I am wrong, but Fidesz loves playing divide et impera and the Hungarian Jews are playful enough to participate, they are anything but independent.

    Just as with the Hungarian left, one can be reminded by the timeless observation according to which there is no medicine for stupidity. If the Jews let themselves purchased and divided by Fidesz, they must suffer the consequences. Laszlo Karsai has the point here.

  29. @tappanch : Koves of Chabad said yesterday that : “The time has not arrived yet to boycott [the government]”–

    Pathetic.When that time comes the situation will be too strongly entrenched for the boycott to have any effect, thus it won’t ever be a boycott.

  30. Bertalan, the entire Holocaust was carried out completely within the scope of German law, i.e. it was completely legal at the time to ship people away and have them killed.

    So should we say the Holocaust wasn’t a bad thing, because it fell under the “rule of law”?

  31. Regarding the U.S., I recently got to meet André Goodfriend, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy, who is the #2 person at the embassy and the active ambassador until the new ambassador arrives. He told me that he’s started a blog and is very keen to have people comment on it. He really wants to engage with people interested in US culture and US/Hungary relations.

    Note that in one of the posts he responds to somebody in perfect Hungarian! He has only been here for about 5 months.

    http://blogs.usembassy.gov/goodfriend/

  32. buddy :

    Regarding the U.S., I recently got to meet André Goodfriend, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy, who is the #2 person at the embassy and the active ambassador until the new ambassador arrives. He told me that he’s started a blog and is very keen to have people comment on it. He really wants to engage with people interested in US culture and US/Hungary relations.

    Note that in one of the posts he responds to somebody in perfect Hungarian! He has only been here for about 5 months.

    http://blogs.usembassy.gov/goodfriend/

    Great idea. I already wrote a comment about Gergely Gulyás’s attack on the new ambassador already.

  33. This time again, it has been a pivotal moment in Hungarian history when an honest man spoke the truth. I have reached the blog of Radnoti Zoltan via the comments of Zsofia Kata Vincze
    January 19, 2014 at 8:39 am
    “BTW Here is another blog post showing how people stand up and speak up in Hungary when something hits their “social nerves”. the blog is useful aslo because links many other forums where people could not remain silent on this issue.” http://rabbi.zsinagoga.net/2014/01/19/antiszemitizmus-vannak-pillanatok-amikor-mar-nem-lehet-csondben-maradni/

    US Embassy blog: http://blogs.usembassy.gov/goodfriend/2014/01/15/are-we-encouraged-to-speak-out/#comments

    Zoltan Radnoti: http://rabbi.zsinagoga.net/2014/01/19/antiszemitizmus-vannak-pillanatok-amikor-mar-nem-lehet-csondben-maradni/

  34. Koves of Chabad is disgusting.
    I suppose jewish Hungarians no less than the Christian Hungarians, are supremely ethically and morally challenged.
    In Hell, ALL Hungarians will inhabit the same circle of Hell as the Nigerians.

  35. Miklos :
    I am guessing Mazsihisz will support the memorial after all. It will not let Chabad to be The Jewish organization which supports Fidesz, when Chabad is already the favored one. I hope I am wrong, but Fidesz loves playing divide et impera and the Hungarian Jews are playful enough to participate, they are anything but independent.
    Just as with the Hungarian left, one can be reminded by the timeless observation according to which there is no medicine for stupidity. If the Jews let themselves purchased and divided by Fidesz, they must suffer the consequences. Laszlo Karsai has the point here.

    Should only Jewish community organisations be concerned?

    I’m still appalled at the global weakness of civil society here. Where are the teachers’ unions? The artists? The tourist industry? A couple of media darlings perhaps?

  36. buddy :
    Regarding the U.S., I recently got to meet André Goodfriend, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy, who is the #2 person at the embassy and the active ambassador until the new ambassador arrives. He told me that he’s started a blog and is very keen to have people comment on it. He really wants to engage with people interested in US culture and US/Hungary relations.
    Note that in one of the posts he responds to somebody in perfect Hungarian! He has only been here for about 5 months.
    http://blogs.usembassy.gov/goodfriend/

    Nice!

    In Monday’s blog entry you can read this: “In the case of Dr. King, even the monument that was established in his honor taught us the importance of being sure that what we set in stone is what we truly want to say.”

    Any resemblance with actual monument projects in Hungary, etc. 🙂

  37. The free, 12-page Fidesz propaganda weekly “Helyi Tema” is dropped in every mailbox of the country.

    Headlines from the latest issue:

    Huge front headline:
    “A.B.: Life is better in Hungary than in Los Angeles”
    “I do not agree with those who continuously whine”

    “Will the Germans buy energy from us?”

    “The wish to fight is characteristic of us, Hungarians”

    “Will Hungary become a world power of energy?”

    “Even the left’s own supporters cannot take them seriously.”

    “Mrs P.[of Fidesz]: The Socialists have betrayed the women”

    You get the idea of the primitiveness of the Fidesz propaganda.

    At the same time, the opposition is not allowed to campaign yet,
    because the campaign ” starts on February 15.”

  38. Several historians protests the Nazi eagle memorial.

    Contrary to the memorial proposal, the deportations in the summer 1944 had
    nothing to do with the Nyilas (Arrow Cross).
    The memorial is based on falsification of history.

    http://www.es.hu/?view=doc%3B35985

    Bencsik Péter történész= historian
    Deák Ágnes történész,
    Eörsi László történész,
    Fazekas Csaba történész,
    Frojimovics Kinga történész,
    Gecsényi Lajos történész,
    Gyáni Gábor történész,
    Hajdu Tibor történész,
    Hosszú Gyula történelemtanár= history teacher
    Karády Viktor szociológus,
    Karsai László történész,
    Kenedi János történész,
    Klaniczay Gábor történész,
    Kovács M. Mária történész,
    Kövér György történész,
    Majsai Tamás történész,
    Mink András történész,
    Molnár Judit történész,
    Ormos Mária történész,
    Paksy Zoltán történész,
    Pihurik Judit történész,
    Rainer M. János történész,
    Sipos Péter történész,
    Toronyi Zsuzsanna muzeológus,
    Ungváry Krisztián történész,
    Vonyó József történész

  39. The information in Eva’s essay does not bode well for Ms Colleen Bell”s ambassadorship. Particulary as regards the lack of substantive answers to Senator McCain’s questions. After all these questions seemed to deal with pretty straight US government issues regarding Hungary’s non-compliance with Western notions of politics and fairness.

    Regarding the memorials on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the forcible deportations and mass slaughter of half a million Jewish persons I’d like to add my ‘take’ on some of the present issues.

    !!!!! The 70th anniversary of the deportations and gassing murders to Auschwitz and other locations comes at a MOST APPROPRIATE moment for the government during the pre-election period campaign. The Orban outfit will prolong this debate as long as they can as it will keep the discussion away from the major contemporary economic, labor, social and inter-nation issues in which Orban’s team has EXCELLED in turning good sense UPSIDE-DOWN. !!!!!

    This includes the enormous employment losses, the consequent new mass emigration to the West by the most capable young talent and skilled middle-aged persons due to stupid i.e. inappropriate government policies.

    All the above can be successfully swept under the rug by re-heating the old and tried Jewish question – now dealing with historical and ethical facts -. Already the government has suddenly invented – out of the blue a minimum of 4 or more festering sores that were harly there a few months ago… Namely: — The new Veritas Historical Institute,… — the new Alternative Memorial at the Jozsefváros train station… — The memory statue to the “German Occupation” which aims to picture Hungary as being totally subjugated into governmental servitude by the German Forces… — The cosmeticizing of the hungry and the homeless into disappearance into the ‘nowhere’ — The unapproved re-introduction of the Soviet era via the nuclear construction… and on and on the list could grow.

    The above are CLEAR PROVOCATION to take away the attention from the real government caused problems, the bad MOL investments, the stolen Private pension insurances, the forcible wrenching away of the nations’s tobacco and newspaper stores, the long list of forced changing of ownerships including large land-grabs by government decree using secret decision-making process, the re-drawing of voting districts to benefit Orban and Co, the purchase of allegiance by offering citizenships and voting rights to non-Hungarian residents and the list goes on. Each affair is of “long-haleine” stuffed with land mines…

    Each of the above elements that rough the waters will take so much time to subside (Orban and Co. will stretch them out infinitely) So it would be useful if Mazsihisz would put a time-frame to settle its battle and NOT let it drag on. Each day spent on this issue takes a day from discussions of the REAL issues of the THOUSANDS of ENORMOUS MISTAKES of the Orban Regime during its mad rush to consolidate power.

    This very morning Hir TV did a live interview in the studio with Maria Schmidt, the chief of the House of Terror and chosen head for the next Orban “memorial” to Jews. She is a focal point on the government side for falsifying Hungarian history of the time.

    Among her constant and deliberate conceptual distortion of history she added insult to injury by actually daring to say that Mazsihisz should receive much less attention because it has only about 3000 members… — where it could WELL have 403,000 current members had people of her illogic not actually murdered them and obliterated the potential progenity 70 years ago !!!!!

    People crucified Jesus with this kind of double-negative logic. (You cause the problem, incite the rebellious behavior, and fault the wounded person for rasing his voice)… Sounds familiar? This is the HALLMARK of ORBAN!!!!!

  40. I guess the question is now whether the Hungarian Jews will sell the memory of their forefathers for some government cash and other potential goodies?

    Why do I have doubts about the answer?

  41. tappanch :
    Several historians protests the Nazi eagle memorial.

    English version:

    We hereby protest against the plan to erect a memorial in central Budapest to the German occupation of 1944. The memorial falsifies an important period of our history, and relativizes the Holocaust in Hungary.

    According to the description of the memorial, which has recently been made public, the memorial will be built “in the memory of all the victims.” Since, however, this memorial is based on a falsified version of history, it cannot fulfill its purpose. By presenting both the victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust together as the sole victim of the Germans, the planned memorial dishonours the memory of those half a million victims who were killed in the Holocaust in Hungary.

    The Hungarian Holocaust took place with the active participation of the Hungarian authorities. But the planned memorial places all responsibility solely with the Germans and the German army’s “Arrow Cross subordinates.” In truth, the Arrow Cross had nothing to do with the mass deportations which took place in the summer of 1944.

    We, the undersigned historians, call upon the government to stop falsifying our recent past, to stop relativizing the history of the Holocaust in Hungary, and to abandon the plan to erect a memorial to the German occupation on Freedom Square in Budapest.

  42. tappanch :
    Several historians protests the Nazi eagle memorial.
    Contrary to the memorial proposal, the deportations in the summer 1944 had
    nothing to do with the Nyilas (Arrow Cross).
    The memorial is based on falsification of history.
    http://www.es.hu/?view=doc%3B35985
    Bencsik Péter történész= historian
    Deák Ágnes történész,
    Eörsi László történész,
    Fazekas Csaba történész,
    Frojimovics Kinga történész,
    Gecsényi Lajos történész,
    Gyáni Gábor történész,
    Hajdu Tibor történész,
    Hosszú Gyula történelemtanár= history teacher
    Karády Viktor szociológus,
    Karsai László történész,
    Kenedi János történész,
    Klaniczay Gábor történész,
    Kovács M. Mária történész,
    Kövér György történész,
    Majsai Tamás történész,
    Mink András történész,
    Molnár Judit történész,
    Ormos Mária történész,
    Paksy Zoltán történész,
    Pihurik Judit történész,
    Rainer M. János történész,
    Sipos Péter történész,
    Toronyi Zsuzsanna muzeológus,
    Ungváry Krisztián történész,
    Vonyó József történész

    We rarely hear members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences expressing their opinions on the many false postulates issued by Fidesz. I was encouraged to find one member of the Academy, Maria Ormos, to have signed the protest.

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