Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Trump insults the United Nations with plan to nominate media lightweight Heather Nauert

Ross K. Baker, Opinion columnist, USA Today, Dec. 12, 2018; original article contains a video, "Nauert currently serves as the spokeswoman for the State Department. Video provided by Newsy Newslook"; also contain links and references to other relevant articles; [JB: note this article does not mention that Ms. Nauert served as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy [JB emphasis] and Public Affairs on March 13, 2018 to October 10. 2018."] [Re this media omission, see also (1) (2).]

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Image from article, with caption: Nauert currently serves as the spokeswoman for the State Department. 

Our ambassador to the UN should be able to explain us to the world and defend our interests. Trump's pick doesn't have the experience or stature for that.(Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Adlai E. Stevenson, Richard Holbrooke, Arthur Goldberg, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Madeleine Albright, George H.W. Bush, Heather Nauert, Heather Nauert? Yes, Heather Nauert. President Donald Trump's plan to nominate media lightweight Heather Nauert to serve as United States ambassador to the United Nations will be the most bizarre appointment by the leader of a major country since the deranged Roman Emperor Caligula proposed elevating his horse to the post of Consul. It is a move akin to casting Justin Bieber as Macbeth.

Currently spokeswoman for the State Department, Nauert gained visibility with her role as a panelist on Trump’s favorite cable program, “Fox and Friends.” Like her sponsor, Nauert has shown signs of cultural illiteracy by suggesting that the strong relations between this country and Germany are exemplified by the bloody encounter on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in June 1944. By that standard, our respect for the Japanese people was demonstrated by the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There is much to criticize about the United Nations — its bureaucratic bloat, its abiding hostility to Israel and its often toothless resolutions — but the United States was among its founding fathers, and we have used the forum to arraign dictators and to mobilize action against rogue nations. As an institution, it is certainly susceptible to criticism, but does it really warrant our contempt?

Does the UN really warrant our contempt?

Nominating someone of Nauert's caliber is a slap in the face of the one organization that serves as the world’s town meeting. Nauert is only a "journalist" by the broadest definition of the term. Moreover, she has no diplomatic experience at all.

We have had a journalist ambassador to the U.N., John Scali, who was nominated in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. But he was no Heather Nauert. A longtime diplomatic correspondent for the Associated Press and ABC News, Scali was enough of a heavyweight to act as an intermediary between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962, during the most tense days of the Cuban missile crisis. He served as a back-channel between the United States and the Soviets, meeting, on a number of occasions, at Washington’s Willard Hotel with a colonel from the KGB.

"If my 30 years of covering diplomacy and visiting 79 countries disqualifies me from representing this country at the U.N., then we'd better find a better yardstick," Scali said when Nixon was criticized for naming him.

While the influence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has varied over the years, presidents have felt that it was always important to have at the organization men and women of genuine stature — but also people capable of laying on the lash when the situation called for it.

Adlai Stevenson, the twice unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate for president who helped found the U.N., offered one example of this. As our ambassador, Stevenson demanded that Soviet delegate Valerian Zorin respond to his question about whether Moscow had installed missiles in Cuba capable of hitting the United States. When Zorin was evasive, Stevenson said he was prepared to wait for a response “until hell freezes over.”

UN should not be a dumping ground for hacks

President Ronald Reagan’s choice for ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, was a veteran of the departments of State and Defense. She also had a dramatic confrontation with the Russians on the Security Council over their bogus claim that Korean Airlines Flight 007 was on a spying mission when it was destroyed by Soviet military aircraft. She stunned the Russians by playing an audio recording of the conversation of the pilots who shot down the civilian plane.

She later quipped that, “What takes place in the Security Council more closely resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at problem solving.” It is difficult to imagine Ambassador Nauert being capable of such impromptu wit.

The spotlight of the world is often on the United Nations. The person we send there to represent us should be up to the task of explaining us to the world and defending our interests. The ambassadorship should be a reward for distinguished service by men and women of unquestioned stature. It should not be a dumping ground for political hacks. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate should reject this nomination.

Ross K. Baker is a distinguished professor of political science at Rutgers University and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @Rosbake1

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