President Trump announced Friday that a former host for a conservative news network is his pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
If the Senate confirms the nomination of Heather Nauert, who has worked at the State Department since April 2017, she will succeed Nikki Haley at the U.N. early next year. Nauert began as a spokeswoman for the department, becoming the acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in March.
Trump told reporters that Nauert has done a “great job” during her brief tenure in government service. “She's very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she's going to be respected by all,” he said. On Thursday, the president declared: “She's excellent. She's been with us a long time. She's been a supporter for a long time.”
The president's critics were quick to accuse him of nominating someone who is loyal to him, rather than a qualified person. A senior administration official acknowledged that Nauert has “extensive experience in this administration in ... representing the president's goals.”
Peter Yeo, senior vice president of the U.N. Foundation, said on CNN: “Nauert's selection doesn't fit the traditional mold for a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She has been a communicator more than a policy person, so she'll be quickly put to the test with the on-the-spot negotiations required at the U.N.”
The Israeli ambassador to the U.N. praised the nomination, predicting that Nauert will be a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. The Jerusalem Post reported: “In her briefings, when asked about controversial Israeli policies or decisions, she almost always defers to the Israeli government.”
However, it is unknown how much the nominee knows about complex Middle East issues. Nauert also would have to get up to speed on details about U.S. conflicts with North Korea and Iran.
In addition, she must defend the U.S. role in Yemen, where a Saudi Arabian-led coalition has created a humanitarian crisis. Many congressional Democrats are demanding that the United States stop providing weapons and logistical support to the assault on Yemen. They also are outraged that, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, the Saudi leader ordered the assassination of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump continues to support the kingdom, perhaps because Saudi diplomats pour money into the president's pockets by staying at his hotel in Washington, D.C.
“Appointing a Fox News talking head to represent our country at the United Nations is completely in character (for Trump),” said Brian Dixon of the Population Connection Action Fund. “Nauert brings no experience, no understanding and, frankly, no interest in learning,” he told Common Dreams. “Her main claim to this role is her willingness to defend the indefensible as a spokesperson.”
Brett Bruen, director of global engagement under President Obama, commented in a USA Today interview: “The United Nations is the big leagues of diplomacy. This is the most egregious example of Trump filling critical national-security jobs by using a superficial casting criteria more appropriate for reality shows than the dangerous realities of today's world.”
Nauert's “only real foreign policy is this stint at the State Department,” noted David Bosco, who teachers international relations at Indiana University. “I think (she) would be one of the least prepared for this position (in the nation's history).”
Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs told Common Dreams: “The worrying aspect of the U.S. is not a particular appointment but the aggressive, unilateralist foreign policy of the Trump administration. The U.S. is breaking treaties, cutting foreign aid, imposing unilateral sanctions, engaging in beggar-thy-neighbor trade protectionism, threatening other countries, expanding the arms race, and gravely endangering the global environment. Global peace itself is being put at risk.”
Haley broke tradition by becoming a member of the president's Cabinet. Nauert may not have the same status. According to CNN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have called for removing the ambassador from the Cabinet.
“Foreign diplomats will read that as a concrete signal ... that the post is being partly downgraded,” said Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at the U.N. University in New York City.
Nauert was a host and reporter for Fox News from 1998 to 2005, before she went to ABC News. She returned to Fox in 2007, and later became a fixture on the “Fox & Friends” show. The television network is known as Trump's favorite source of news, because of its support of his policies.
As a State Department spokeswoman, Nauert was known as an effective communicator with the news media. However, she caused a stir at one briefing by remarking: “Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government.”
Haley is stepping down following two years as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Political pundits predict that the former South Carolina governor could have a bright political future.