Sometime in early 2019 Heather Nauert, Donald Trump’s appointee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will go before the Senate for confirmation hearings. If confirmed, Nauert, a former Fox News correspondent with no foreign-service or direct diplomatic experience, will join a long lineup of questionable and unqualified high-profile appointments by the president.
For observers following the trajectory of the erratic governance style of the Trump administration, Nauert will inevitably be seen as the latest in a long line of unqualified individuals to have been blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) by Trump’s toxic spotlight. If confirmed, Nauert will join the coterie of unqualified Trumpists in high-profile positions in and out of the cabinet, including Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and everyone’s all-time favorite, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Why does Trump appoint these people?
Some media attention (but perhaps not enough) has focused on speculation about the reasons why Trump surrounds himself with the glaringly unqualified and why, from an outsider’s point of view, his staffing decision making appears to be so fundamentally flawed. As the numbers of the unqualified and their destruction of the agencies they head continues to expand, the question of “why” should continue to be at the forefront of news coverage and discussion by our elected representatives. After all, Trump’s appointees work for us, the American taxpayer, not for the president.
Is this deeply troubling pattern the result of Trump’s need to ensure the loyalty of the Republican Party by furthering the party’s decades-long dream to “starve the beast” and limit through incompetence, mismanagement, and budget and program cuts the effectiveness of government agencies—like the EPA, the Energy Department, the Consumer Protection Agency, or the Department of Education?
Or are Trump’s hiring decisions the result of a personal psychology that combines a need for self-aggrandizement and unquestioning loyalty, a terrifying dependence on the gut rather than the brain, the need to appear to be the smartest, most domineering, or most powerful person in the room, or, too often, a banal focus on whether an individual looks the part. Let us never forget (or forgive) that Vice President Mike Pence, who could succeed Trump if he were impeached or resigned, was plucked out of the Republican universe of potential running mates simply because he looked like a poster boy for the second in command.
Or is the explanation all of the above and more? Perhaps the decades-long dream of the Republican Party to destroy or limit the effective operation of the federal government is nothing more than a conspiracy theory (although all evidence points to the contrary), and there is no back-door plan to limit the effectiveness of the federal government. Perhaps Trump’s staffing picks simply reflect a fundamental ignorance and refusal by Trump to school himself on the actual functioning of government, or a deficit of interest and lack of seriousness and respect for the responsibilities of the presidency, or the president’s inexplicable dependence on the advice of the talking heads of Fox News rather than the advice of his more schooled advisers. All such explanations should be setting off alarm bells with voters across America, no matter their party affiliation.
Qualifications: Nauert vs everybody else
But enough of speculation. Let’s return for a moment to the upcoming Senate hearing for the next unqualified appointee. I’m hoping that level-headed senators and their staffs on both sides of the aisle are doing their homework on Nauert’s lack of qualifications. I’m hoping they’ll be armed with the resumes and history of prior U.N. ambassadors. Those resumes will certainly illuminate the gulf between Nauert’s lack of foreign-policy chops and the foreign-policy experience of most of her most recent predecessors.
My conclusion is this. The United Nations is not an organization to be taken lightly nor disrespected. America deserves a serious, experienced, and qualified ambassador to represent our interests and negotiate the most difficult of the world’s interconnected challenges. Being a quick study is not good enough. Putting on a good show after marathon coaching sessions and being a clever talking head is not good enough. In a dangerous and unsettled world, America needs an ambassador who has experience and years of grounding in the world of foreign affairs and diplomacy. America deserves more than just window dressing at the United Nations.
If you’re not yet convinced of why Nauert should not be confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., I encourage you to review the list below of her qualifications and those of some of her distinguished predecessors. Then draw your own conclusions.
Heather Nauert – Nominated by Trump
- Health-insurance consultant, Washington, D.C.
- Fox TV news anchor and presenter Fox & Friends
- ABC network correspondent
- Trump-appointed Acting Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, March – October 2018
- Trump-appointed State Department spokeswoman, April 2017 to present
Nikki Haley – Appointed by Trump
- Representative, South Carolina House of Representatives
- Governor, South Carolina
Samantha Power – Appointed by Obama
- War correspondent
- Harvard professor
- Adviser to Obama’s National Security Council
- Senior director for Multinational Affairs and Human Rights
- Pulitzer-prize–winning author
Susan Rice – Appointed by Obama
- Member, National Security Council
- Member, State Department
- Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
- Brookings Institute Fellow
- Author of policy papers on international terrorism, peacekeeping, global effects of failed states
- Senior foreign-policy adviser for presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama
Zalmay Khalizad – Appointed by George W. Bush
- Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at Dept. of State
- Counselor at Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Consultant at U.S. State Department and Pentagon since 1980s
- U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
- U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
John Negroponte – Appointed by George W. Bush
- Research fellow and lecturer – International Affairs at George Washington University, Elliot School of International Affairs, and Yale University
- Deputy Secretary of State
- First Director of National Intelligence
- U.S. Foreign Service
- U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Mexico, and Philippines
- U.S. permanent representative to U.N.
- Ambassador to Iraq
Richard Holbrooke – Appointed by Bill Clinton
- Special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Assistant Secretary of State for Asia
- Assistant Secretary of State for Europe
- Ambassador to Germany
- Brokered peace agreement in Bosnia
Bill Richardson – Appointed by Bill Clinton
- Governor of New Mexico
- Secretary of Energy
Madeleine Albright – Appointed by Bill Clinton
- Secretary of State
- Member, National Security Council
- Professor, Georgetown University
Daniel Patrick Moynihan – Appointed by Gerald Ford
- Advisor to President Nixon
- Assistant Secretary of Labor
- U.S. Ambassador to India