Nauert’s pick as U.N. en­voy hints at down­grad­ing of role

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Baker and Michael M. Grynbaum NEW YORK TIMES

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Trump con­firmed Fri­day that he would nom­i­nate Heather Nauert, a for­mer “Fox & Friends” host who has served as the State Depart­ment spokes­woman since last year, to re­place Nikki Haley as am­bas­sador to the United Nations and help pro­mote an “Amer­ica First” for­eign pol­icy that has at times ran­kled some of the coun­try’s lead­ing al­lies.

Nauert has im­pressed Trump with her fierce ad­vo­cacy and tele­genic pres­ence, while earn­ing the trust of the pres­i­dent’s daugh­ter Ivanka Trump and her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner.

Nauert “has done a great job” at the State Depart­ment, Trump said in mak­ing his an­nounce­ment. “She’s very tal­ented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s go­ing to be re­spected by all,” he said.

But she would bring less ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment or in­ter­na­tional af­fairs to the high-pro­file job than al­most any­one who has held it, gen­er­at­ing in­stant skep­ti­cism that may com­pli­cate her Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

If con­firmed, Nauert may serve more as a pub­lic face for the ad­min­is­tra­tion than as a pol­i­cy­maker, leav­ing Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and John Bolton, the pres­i­dent’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, to dom­i­nate de­ci­sion­mak­ing back in Wash­ing­ton. Many in Wash­ing­ton saw the ap­point­ment as a way for Bolton to con­sol­i­date power.

Un­like Haley, a for­mer gover­nor of South Carolina who, with her own po­lit­i­cal stature and am­bi­tions, oc­ca­sion­ally spoke out in vari­ance to the pres­i­dent’s talk­ing points, of­fi­cials ex­pect Nauert to hew closer to the ad­min­is­tra­tion line. The White House would not say whether the po­si­tion will re­tain Cab­i­net rank, but few ex­pect it to.

Am­bas­sadors to the U.N. typ­i­cally fit one of two mod­els – ei­ther long­time for­eign pol­icy hands like Thomas Pick­er­ing, Richard Hol­brooke and Zal­may Khalilzad, or politi­cians of stature like Henry Cabot Lodge, Ad­lai Steven­son and Ge­orge Bush. Nauert fits nei­ther model, hav­ing spent her ca­reer in tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ism un­til join­ing the State Depart­ment in April 2017.

“The re­al­ity is that is a com­plex, im­por­tant, sub­stan­tive job,” said Su­san E. Rice, who held the post un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. “It is not a press job. It’s not a job for a glo­ri­fied spokesper­son.” The am­bas­sador needs to “go toe to toe ev­ery day with the Rus­sians and the Chi­nese, and it’s not ev­i­dent to me that she has the back­ground that equips her to step into that job and hit the ground run­ning.”

But John Ne­gro­ponte, who had the job un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, said that Nauert was well versed in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s for­eign pol­icy and seemed to have good re­la­tions with Pom­peo and the White House, vi­tal for the job. “She’s had to­tal im­mer­sion in the day-to-day is­sues,” he said.

Col­leagues from her ca­ble news days said she was among the more se­ri­ous re­porters who ap­peared on Fox News’ morn­ing lineup. “It’s no more un­usual than a busi­ness­man end­ing up as pres­i­dent,” said Greta Van Sus­teren, a for­mer Fox an­chor. “She’s smart, she’s trav­eled the world, and she can talk to peo­ple, and that’s es­sen­tially what we need at the U.N.”

Nauert is one of nu­mer­ous tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties with roles in Trump’s as-seen-on-TV ad­min­is­tra­tion. Bolton was a Fox con­trib­u­tor, and Bill Shine, a for­mer Fox co-pres­i­dent, serves as deputy chief of staff. Larry Kud­low, a long­time CNBC host, stars as the pres­i­dent’s chief eco­nomic ad­viser.

Nauert, 48, had to over­come a steep learn­ing curve and a rocky re­la­tion­ship with her first boss, Rex Tiller­son, the for­mer sec­re­tary of state, who viewed her as a White House spy and did not take her on many trips. She re­peat­edly talked about quit­ting. But she de­vel­oped a bond with Pom­peo, who has pro­moted her within, and some for­mer col­leagues said she was a hard worker and quick study.

Crit­ics were less gen­er­ous, point­ing to gaffes dur­ing her State Depart­ment ten­ure. On a trip to Saudi Ara­bia in Oc­to­ber, Nauert posted on In­sta­gram a smil­ing selfie out­side a gov­ern­ment com­plex in Riyadh, a dis­cor­dant im­age given that the pur­pose of the visit was to dis­cuss the bru­tal mur­der of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi.

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