The American media outlet says that it is problematic that David B. Cornstein is not a professional diplomat and he does not criticise the Hungarian government because of, for example, corruption or the banishment of the Central-European University. Instead, he is deepening his relationship with PM Orbán.
According to the CNN, the background of Trump and Cornstein is very similar: they are both wealthy New Yorkers who like to put on a good show and have been friends for decades and have been moving in the same circles. Cornstein told CNN that he would spend some time with the President during the holidays in the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
This relationship is the answer to why Mr Cornstein can be the US ambassador to Hungary even though he is not a diplomat. Thus, it is not surprising that he is downplaying traditional protocol and institutions while he wants to create deep relationships with the Hungarian political actors including
the Prime Minister who the CNN defines a far-right leader.
Cornstein said to CNN that Hungary is a beautiful country and Budapest is a beautiful city. He added that he always says to Mr Orbán that despite being always on the defensive they should tell the good news about Hungary to everybody. CNN writes that the American ambassador seems to be “bemused by the media interest in him.” They add that since he is a close friend to Rudy Giuliani, the President’s lawyer who is a central figure in the impeachment proceedings and who was on a controversial trip to Eastern Europe before, he did not even ask why Mr Giuliani was in Budapest.
Cornstein always speaks about PM Viktor Orbán as a powerful and good leader. He also added on a Fourth of July celebration that they “have a saying in the United States that when you have a dance, you need two to tango, and I think we have found the perfect partner to have this dance with here.”
Such assertions would have been unthinkable in the Obama-era but now Cornstein even
helped Mr Orbán arranging a meeting with the US president
just before the European parliament elections in Washington. Trump said then that Mr Orbán is highly respected all over Europe and though he is a little bit controversial like him, that is OK.
Cornstein is not working closely with career foreign service staff to push the agreed foreign policy of the United States and advance American values. For example, he did not stand for the Central European University. Publicly he vowed to do it, but privately, CEU president and rector Michael Ignatieff said that the ambassador was unwilling or unable to push Orbán in that case. Mr Ignatieff thinks that
Cornstein did not think about the CEU as an American institution but as a liberal one
and since he was close to a conservative like Orbán in the issue, he did not do anything to help it.
Miklos Ligeti, legal director of Transparency International Hungary, said that he was shocked when the ambassador appeared to minimise the problem of Hungarian corruption. Mr Cornstein told that corruption is present everywhere, in New York, Chicago and Budapest, as well. According to CNN,
Trump never criticised Cornstein for what he said so he probably agrees with his ambassador.
“Critics fear that Cornstein’s actions are undermining American interests and that Trump’s disregard for diplomatic norms could deal an enduring blow, one that will last much longer than Cornstein’s tenure and have repercussions far beyond Hungary” – CNN concludes.