By Jordan Rudner
President Joe Biden has nominated attorney Marc Stanley, a prominent member of Dallas’ Jewish community, to serve as ambassador to Argentina. But for now, Stanley’s confirmation — along with those of more than 50 other Biden appointees — has been delayed in the U.S. Senate, largely as a result of a Republican blockade led by Sen. Ted Cruz.
Stanley, 64, is a lifelong member of Temple Emanu-El and a major fundraiser for the Democratic Party. On top of his work as a civil trial attorney, Stanley has served in leadership roles at a host of local and national Jewish organizations. International relations experts and former members of Congress lauded the nomination, and told the TJP that Stanley is near-guaranteed to be confirmed by the Senate — eventually.
“The U.S. ambassador plays a major role, because they’re the person on the ground, speaking directly with the president and vice president — and he’s a savvy, intelligent person,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University who specializes in Latin America. “It would be a waste of resources not to utilize him.”
Former U.S. Representative Martin Frost, who represented parts of the North Texas region in Congress for 26 years, agreed, describing Stanley as both tenacious and personable — two ideal characteristics for a diplomat.
“Marc Stanley is positive, aggressive and active,” Frost said. “Once he takes on a project, he stays with it.”
In order for him to serve as ambassador, Stanley’s nomination will eventually need to be confirmed by Senate vote. More than six months into Biden’s presidency, only one of his ambassadors to a foreign country has been confirmed. Dozens of other State Department nominations have been left pending for months, including for positions that are “critical” for national security, according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The delay is attributable to a number of factors, including the Senate’s busy agenda during the first six months of Biden’s presidency. But one of the biggest obstacles to Stanley’s confirmation is his own senator, Ted Cruz, who is currently using procedural mechanisms to place holds on dozens of Biden’s appointments. Cruz’s press secretary told the Los Angeles Times that Cruz will use “all leverage and prerogatives he has” to block confirmation votes until the Biden administration issues sanctions against sponsors of a Russian oil pipeline that is already more than 95% complete.
Cruz also has reason to oppose Stanley specifically. In 2018, Stanley helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to oust Cruz during the midterm elections, and served as chair of the Fire Ted Cruz PAC. In the past, Stanley has described Cruz as “awful,” “disliked by his colleagues” and “a self-centered hypocrite [who] continually lies about his actions.” Cruz’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite any ire Cruz might hold toward Stanley, former congressman Congressman Frost said he’s confident the confirmation will ultimately succeed.
“There are an awful lot of people Cruz doesn’t like,” Frost said. “That’s just one of those things.”
Stanley has declined interviews with the media while he prepares for what might be a drawn-out confirmation battle.
A leader in the Jewish community
Stanley, who was born and raised in Dallas, has been a leader in the Texas Jewish community for decades. He and his wife, Wendy, met in Austin during graduate school, and their three children, Daryl, Paul, and Mikey, graduated from Greenhill School.
Stanley served for six years as chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council and spent more than 20 years in leadership positions on the board of Legacy Senior Communities. He currently sits on the executive committee of the Israel Policy Forum, an advocacy group that lobbies for a two-state solution and long-term stability in Israel and Palestine.
Carol Aaron, who worked alongside Stanley as co-chair of The Legacy Senior Communities until 2018, described his work as “instrumental” to the organization’s success.
“He has empathy for people, and he has passion,” she said. “He tries to understand the concerns any community might have. And he’s a fighter. He’ll go to bat — he’s always standing by.”
Diplomacy requires the ability to foster close relationships with a number of stakeholders, and that’s where Stanley will especially thrive, Aaron said. Frost, who has worked with Stanley in Democratic politics for years, agreed.
In 2005, when Frost’s mother, Doris, died, Stanley found his way to San Antonio for the funeral — even though Frost hadn’t mentioned his bereavement.
“I looked out into the audience, and there he was,” Frost said. “He shows up.”
Argentina’s political landscape
If confirmed, Stanley will arrive at a pivotal moment for Argentina. The country, which has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently locked in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, as government officials try to avoid yet another default on the country’s debt. Argentina has defaulted twice in the last 20 years.
“The United States is going to be pivotal in those discussions, helping determine…how flexible or inflexible the IMF is going to be,” said Jones, the Rice University expert, said. “The ambassador will absolutely have to prepare for the possibility of another Argentinian default.”
The ambassador will also need to prepare for Argentina’s 2023 presidential elections and for the possibility of conflict with China. The Chinese government has invested heavily in Argentina’s mineral resources, natural gas industry and soy exports, Jones said.
Argentina is also home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America, but the relationship between the community and the government is a complex one. In 1994, suicide bombers attacked a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds more.
Although it has been more than 25 years since the bombing, which was the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history, the investigation is still ongoing — and has itself been fraught with violence. In 2006, a Jewish federal prosecutor named Alberto Nisman published a lengthy report accusing then-President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of covering up the Iranian government’s role in the attack.
Four days later, Nisman was murdered in his apartment, just hours before he was set to testify about the accusations. Kirchner is now vice president of Argentina.
Jones said many Jewish leaders in Argentina have lingering anger over their government’s response to the bombing.
“The sentiment varies within the Jewish community — it’s an ongoing challenge,” Jones said. “As a Jewish American ambassador, [Stanley] will be expected to take a position.”
Jones added that although the pandemic and ongoing economic crisis have taken their toll, Argentine Jews are resilient, forming an essential part of Argentina’s complex and vivid national culture.
“Argentines are incredibly adaptive, and they survive under the most difficult circumstances,” Jones said. “It’s an incredible place to live.”
Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El said Stanley’s appointment also sends a powerful message to the global community during a period of rising antisemitism.
“It’s a shot in the arm for the Jewish community in Argentina, but I think it also sends a message about what America stands for in the world,” Stern said. “I think that he’ll try to build bridges where they’ve sometimes been fragile.”
Jordan Rudner is a freelance reporter and student at Stanford Law School.