Thank you, Ambassador Colleen Bell!

Almost a year ago, Senator John McCain blasted Colleen Bell on the US Senate floor: “We’re about to vote on a totally unqualified individual to be ambassador to a nation which is very important to our national security interest. Her qualifications are as a producer of the television soap opera The Bold and The Beautiful, who contributed $800,000 to Obama in the last election and bundled more than $2.1 million for President Obama’s re-election effort.”

McCain also said: “I am not against political appointees … I understand how the game is played, but here we are, a nation [Hungary] that is on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator getting in bed with Vladimir Putin and we’re going to send the producer of ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’ as the ambassador. I urge my colleagues to put a stop to this foolishness. I urge a no vote.”

The Senate confirmed Bell to the ambassador post with a vote of 52-42. Ambassador’s Bell’s recent speech at Corvinus University in Budapest proves that she is a capable diplomat with a clear grasp of the Hungarian situation. Even Senator McCain would agree that her speech tackled most of the important issues. (Don’t expect a congratulatory note from the Senator.)

Ambassador Bell laid out a list of concerns and she did this with unusual clarity. She talked about – among other things – the widespread and debilitating corruption, the government crackdown on the freedom of NGOs and she even mentioned the government’s attempt to whitewash an anti-Semite.

Hungarian politicians tried to sway her; the right-wing media tried to bully her. They announced that with her arrival everything has changed; all troubles originated from her predecessor Chargé d’Affaires, André Goodfriend, the “Hungarian hater.” Hungary’s Ambassador to Washington, Réka Szemerkényi, declared that the “female approach” would play an important role in coordinating sensitive issues. She also assured the media that Hungarian corruption is not on the table anymore, e.g. declaring that the case of Hungarian officials banned from entering the US has been “completely closed”. I was happy to hear that Ambassador Bell’s speech focused on Hungary’s “systematic corruption.”

Bell also met several self-appointed leaders of right-wing Hungarian-American organizations. Last year Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Hungarian American Coalition, was vigorously defending Mr. Orbán. She wrote that Hungary is a “healthy democracy with one of Europe’s most stable governments. In the free and democratic elections on April 6, Hungarian voters gave a resounding vote of confidence to Mr. Orban. They also rejected the destructive record of a Socialist Coalition which proved itself corrupt and inept at governing and incompetent in providing an alternative.” Now things have changed, it seems that she is firmly behind Ms. Bell.

Ambassador Bell (in the middle) with Ms. Edith Lauer and Mr. Zsolt Szekeres of the Hungarian American Coalition.

Ambassador Bell (in the middle) with Ms. Edith Lauer and Mr. Zsolt Szekeres of the Hungarian American Coalition.

Frank Koszorus of the American Hungarian Federation issued a press release after meeting with Ambassador Bell: “We were glad to meet with Ambassador Bell and appreciated the opportunity to express our views and the concerns of a cross-section of our community, as the United States has strategic interests in the region. The United States and Hungary, moreover, have a long history of friendship and shared values,” said Mr. Koszorus. “Good bilateral relations and mutual respect are indispensable, especially as the United States and Hungary are natural allies. We were struck by Ambassador Bell’s passion for Hungary, perseverance, and commitment to bring the two countries together,” he added. It seems that he is also supporting Ms. Bell.

Mr. Orbán’s American friends find it uncomfortable to show public support for his policies. (In private, many of them tell that they wouldn’t mind if he would just disappear.) US media is openly discussing how Hungary is turning into the European Union’s only dictatorship. (Read here.)

Ambassador Bell (in the middle) with Ms. Edith Lauer and Mr. Zsolt Szekeres of the Hungarian American Coalition.

Ambassador Bell  with Frank Koszorus Jr. of the American Hungarian Federation.

The Orbán government is shell shocked. Hungarian diplomats, like Ferenc Kumin, New York consul-propagandist assured his bosses in Budapest that the American relationship is in new phase, Ms. Bell is a lightweight and the US media is under control. Orbán lobbyists are feverishly organizing “feel-good” events in the US to manipulate the media and to prove that Budapest is sensitive and caring. They try to make the Hungarian public believe that Ambassador Bell is inexperienced and gullible and that she is incapable of causing any damage to the Orbán government.

US-Hungarian relations have reached a new low and I have a feeling they will get worse. Ms. Bell is formidable and clever, and she quietly made the Hungarian-American community her ally. She also has strong bi-partisan support. Most US Democrats and Republicans agree that Mr. Orbán’s policies are unacceptable and his failed leadership has guided Hungary into a dead-end.

György Lázár

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For the full text of Ambassador Bell’s speech, referenced in our piece, please click here.

12 Comments

  1. Her speech was certainly not a disappointment; but it’s not clear whether she wrote it or her Washington superiors did. She only showed so far that she knew how to read it. I hope she turns out to be capable and that she sees through the dirty tricks of the Orban government as Mr. Goodfriend did.

  2. Charlie London says:

    It is to the eternal shame of Europe – the EU, that it takes America to put Orban’s hat on straight.

    As the EU lies in a state of stasis – with some member states declining into sclerotic ‘democracies’- when some aren’t even democracies, the ‘values’ of the EU erode insidiously.

    Decline, declining, declined.

    With the EU considering Turkey as a member, just to ease the immigration issue the ‘values’ will hit rock bottom.

    Courting the thug Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his crew will sow seeds of insurmountable problems later on. Tacit support being given while he restarts his war against other Turkish citizens – the PKK. (Many parallels here with Bomber Al Assad.)

    The EU has suppressed their own excoriating report on Erdoğan’s Turkey until after his upcoming election – which he will undoubtedly ensure he wins, by foul means almost certainly. How’s that for so-called independent reporting? Manipulating dates?

    EU ‘values’? Don’t make me laugh.

    Only the USA can pull up the socks of the EU – by ‘policing’ diplomatically, disastrous authoritarian regimes like Hungary.

    Turkey will follow later.

    Very well done Ambassador Bell.

  3. András B. Göllner says:

    I’m not so sure the US Ambassador still enjoys the support of the pro-Orbán lobby groups in the US. They are in fact livid with her.

    Béla Lipták is up to his usual tricks, rallying the troops and getting the members of his lobby group in the US to take pen and paper and cut and paste from his own critical letter to Ambassador Bell. He asks his followers to sign their own names to his words, like good little puppies and send it along to the Ambassador, to the Secretary of State, to Congressional leaders and the media.

    Here are some excerpts from Liptak’s lobbying instructions to the troops:

    “I ask you all to rewrite my letter, using your own words and send it out under your own signature without delay – get your friends and relatives to do the same. Send it on Fax, or by surface post and not in an e-mail because this way will draw more attention. Be sure to send a copy to John Kerry and to your Senator and Representative and to the local media.”

    Lipták claims, that he is the authentic voice of 1.5 million American Hungarians and wants American Hungarians to back him up in his pro Orbán propaganda gambit. In his letter to Colleen Bell Lipták, doesn’t mince his words and asks the Ambassador to smarten up and mind her own business like a good girl. It seems that he can get away with this, since he is on first name basis with the Ambassador. Here are the key passages from the “authentic” voice of Orbán’s American lobbyist:

    “Dear Colleen….I believe I speak for many of the 1.5 million Hungarian-American voters, when I comment on your recent statements about Hungary….What you said included basically the same list of criticisms, which the lobbyists of the Hungarian opposition at John Hopkins University and elsewhere, are saying….would it not be more diplomatic, if you did not take sides in the internal politics of Hungary ?”

    We urge Canadian and American Hungarian Democrats and readers of the Hungarian Free Press who are offended by Lipták’s manipulative ways to pick up their pens and papers and give voice to their outrage with this kind of manipulative conduct. Thanks to Lipták, we have the address where we should send our faxes and letters. Here it is:

    Colleen Bradley Bell, US Ambassador to Hungary
    Szabadság tér 12, H-1054 Budapest, Hungary
    Fax: 011 (36-1) 475-4764

  4. Dear Colleen Bell,

    Go back to your home!!!!!!!

    • Charlie London says:

      Zoltan Nagy?

      You are a fool.

      Take away the $9 billion worth of U.S. investment? Take the $7 billion per year two-way trade too?

      Hungary needs America more than America needs Hungary.

      Slowly slowly slowly Hungary will isolate itself with its attitude in the Global community.

      By not embracing the refugees – Germany is training refugees for its industries as a balance against its ageing population – Hungary will become poorer and poorer.

      As its population deserts it for better democracies and Hungary isolates itself with its strange language.

      Yea Right!

      Foreigners go home. Keep Hungary pure. Let’s just face inwards and worship our cuddly dictator, Orban.

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  6. I think the Hungarian Free Press would better change its name to Hungarian-free Press, or Antihungarian Free Press.

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  8. The Author(s) of this paper are clearly NOT Hungarian, nor in their heart and nor for its interests.
    They are puppets used based on their Hungarian family roots to be presented as being interested in Hungary, but yet they are only for the purpose of their masters a.k.a.: the One World Order.

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