On October 25, 2009 — six weeks after I arrived in Tunisia to begin my tour as U.S. ambassador — President Ben Ali was re-elected with 89 percent of the vote. At that point he had been president for 22 years and, as the percentage of the vote he garnered suggests, the election was rigged from the beginning. Consequently, my team at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis recommended that President Obama refrain from sending a routine congratulatory message. Our reasoning was that the Tunisian regime would misperceive such a message — however protocolary in nature and however carefully nuanced — as an endorsement of Ben Ali’s rule.
The above excerpt was originally published in The Diplomatic Pouch.
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