“There are strong concerns about Mr. McGurk’s qualifications, his ability to work with Iraqi officials, and now his judgment,” the GOP letter states. It is signed by Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming,
Jim DeMint of South Carolina, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, James E. Risch of Idaho and Marco Rubio of Florida.
McGurk’s path to securing the nomination got more complicated last week when a racy e-mail exchange surfaced between McGurk and a Wall Street Journal reporter covering him. In the letter, the senators said that such “unprofessional conduct . . . will affect the nominee’s credibility in the country where he has been nominated to serve.”
They also indicate that they were not previously aware of the e-mails, which were posted online anonymously last week. “The fact that this information was not disclosed to Senators is also disconcerting,” they wrote.
The e-mail exchanges date to when McGurk was working in Iraq for the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. Reporter Gina Chon was stationed in Baghdad, and the two struck up a romantic relationship. They are now married, and Chon on Tuesday announced her resignation from the Journal.
In the e-mails, the two joke about McGurk providing Chon with information and access. And while the e-mails do not indicate that McGurk actually shared any sensitive information with Chon, they come at a time when the Senate is focused on stanching national security leaks.
The White House stood by its nominee.
“We believe the United States will be greatly served by Mr. McGurk’s experience in Iraq, which is substantial,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.
Other concerns about McGurk predate the e-mail controversy. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had previously criticized McGurk’s handling of U.S. policy in Iraq, including the inability of U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to reach a deal that would have left a small U.S. military presence behind. All U.S. combat troops left Iraq last year after those negotiations broke down.
In the letter, the Republican members of the Foreign Relations Committee echoed that criticism, noting that McGurk played a “lead role” in the “botched” negotiations.
The color of modesty
U.S. forces in Afghanistan are working hard to train the country’s national police force and other folks as part of the administration’s plan to withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014.
There’s obviously a concern that not enough security folks will be adequately trained by the time U.S. and allied forces withdraw. But maybe they’ll at least look snappy.