The Cable

Rubio makes the case for foreign aid

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is becoming an increasingly critical and hawkish voice on the Obama administration's foreign policy, but he is actually a supporter of U.S. foreign assistance programs and made the case for maintaining this funding to his constituents last week.

"We certainly have to be more careful when spending foreign aid.... On the other hand, sometimes in the press and in the minds of many, our foreign aid is exaggerated," Rubio said in an online question and answer session on June 29. "It really is a minuscule part of our overall budget and it's not the reason we have this growing debt in America."

Rubio was responding online to a letter from "Will," a 14-year-old constituent in Palm Bay, who asked the senator to consider the needs of people at home before sending U.S. taxpayer money abroad.

"I think it's crazy that we are spending all this money helping others when we are the ones needing help, wrote Will, "I understand others need help, but we've already done so much that we're hurting ourselves."

"Foreign aid is important. If it's done right, it spreads America's influence around the world in a positive way," Rubio responded.

Rubio praised the Bush administration's effort to provide HIV medicine and relief to Africa as a prime example of a successful foreign aid program. He said the program had not only saved lives but had increased U.S. popularity throughout the continent.

"These are allies that in the future can help us, not just in political struggles but who can be our partners in economic trade," he said. "A world where people are prosperous and free to grow their economies and pursue their own dreams and ambitions is a better world for all of us."

Overall, Rubio may not support the Obama administration's handling of the Libya war, its policy toward  Russia and China, or its interactions with international organizations. But when it comes to foreign aid, Rubio and the Obama administration are on the same page.

"The real problem in America's spending is not foreign aid, which is a very small part of our budget," Rubio said.

The Cable

It’s official: Sherman nominated as undersecretary of State

President Barack Obama officially announced his intention to nominate Wendy Sherman to be the next undersecretary of state for political affairs today.

The Cable first reported in May that Sherman, a long time confidant of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had emerged as the "leading candidate" to replace Bill Burns as the fourth-highest ranking official in Foggy Bottom. Burns has been nominated as principal deputy secretary of state. Currently the vice chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, Sherman was counselor to Secretary of State Madeline Albright, where she also served as North Korean policy coordinator. She served as assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs from 1993 to 1996 under Secretary of State Warren Christopher. She is also chair of the board of directors of Oxfam America and serves on the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Policy Board.

After Clinton was tapped by Obama as secretary of state, Sherman played a major role in her nomination preparation and transition teams. She served as an agency review lead for the State Department's transition after the 2008 election, along with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. As an official with experience dealing with East Asia policy, she will help fill the void left by departed Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, a State Department official said.

She faces a tough, but perhaps not insurmountable, confirmation fight in the Senate. Even before her nomination was announced, detractors in the Republican Party began a campaign to question her suitability for the post and her record both inside and out of government. Her confirmation hearing is sure to focus on her time dealing with Pyongyang, which is seen by her critics as a period of appeasement of the North Korean regime.

Senate offices are also planning to dig into Sherman's client base while she worked at Albright-Stonebridge. Her public clients -- which include Coca-Cola, BMW, and Pew Global Attitudes Project -- all seem innocuous, but lawmakers will want to know more about her undisclosed clients. There are suspicions that she represented Chinese interests, but no direct evidence to that effect has surfaced.

Lastly, senators will certainly make an issue out of the fact that Sherman was head of the Fannie Mae Foundation from 1996 to 1997. Her defense will be that Fannie Mae Foundation was a tax-exempt, non-profit organization when she worked there, and moreover that she was never paid directly by Fannie Mae.

Sherman was confirmed for her position as State Department counselor in 1997 by a GOP-controlled Senate, and a Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Jesse Helms. Administration officials said that they are confident they can make a strong argument for Sherman and get her through the confirmation process.

We'll see. The State Department is also facing tough confirmation fights on a series of nominees, for a variety of reasons. Other nominees facing scrutiny include current National Security Council Senior Director for Russia Mike McFaul, who has been nominated as the next ambassador to Moscow, Mara Rudman as the new USAID assistant administrator for the Middle East, and David Adams to replace Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Richard Verma.

"As I know from years of working by her side, Wendy Sherman has a keen intellect, is deeply knowledgeable, incredibly hard-working and fully dedicated to the protection of U.S. interests and the success of American leadership across the globe," Albright said in a statement e-mailed to The Cable. "She is the perfect candidate for the job of Under Secretary for Political Affairs. I urge my friends in the Senate to act promptly and positively on her nomination."

A senior GOP aide reacted by saying, "We will check very carefully to understand all of her clients with [former U.S. National Security Advisor] Sandy Berger and Albright."