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For the UN, a Non-Ambassador

Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 9, 2018

Frankly, I have no idea what President Trump thinks of as being “qualified.”

On the campaign trail, he routinely attacks candidates for being unqualified (Think Stacy Abrams, who was an extremely qualified candidate for Georgia governor) just because they come from the wrong party, and promotes wacky judicial nominees as “qualified,” even though some have never been in a courtroom or litigated a case.

Now comes word that the president wants State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor, as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

If confirmed by the Senate, the nomination would elevate someone described as a foreign policy novice into the top tier of U.S. diplomacy as the Trump administration ramps up pressure against Iran, battles with North Korea, stares down China and Russia, calls out Mexico and Central American nations, keeps peace in the Middle East, and demands that allies take on more responsibility for their own security.

In other words, the job asks a lot of its holder in terms of knowledge, tact, persuasive ability, and the intricacies of building international coalitions; it is not a communications job, it is a diplomacy job.

The outgoing ambassador, Nikki Haley, was a governor and someone who worked hard to establish the position as a credible international post that worked with, but was separate from, the machinery of the State Department. Her hard-work ethic and organized preparation seemed to make up for any specific ack of international background.

So, naturally, for a replacement, Trump has turned to a television personality.

Nauert joined the State Department last year with no government experience after a career as an anchor and correspondent at Fox News.

A health insurance consultant with degrees from Mount Vernon College in Washington and Columbia University’s journalism school, she is aformer news reporter for ABC. Nauert joined Fox in 1996, originally as a correspondent and later as a co-host for “Fox and Friends,” one of Trump’s favorite shows and source of inspiration. Of course, Nauert has been a steady supporter of the president, even during the turbulent tenure of Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

She and Tillerson apparently never did establish a close relationship, in part, because Tillerson saw her as a White House loyalist with particularly close ties to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. She earned a note of derision for announcing publicly that Germany’s high point in U.S. relations was D-Day, you know, diplomatically.

Under Mike Pompeo, who has followed Tillerson, Nauert became part of the department’s inner circle. Pompeo promoted her to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Obviously, critics of the administration have been quick to criticize the pending appointment as valuing loyalty over experience. Perhaps the president is acknowledging an odd choice by moving to remove the job as a Cabinet-level position.

The New York Times had reported that the president floated other namesto associates as possible nominees, including Kelly Craft, the ambassador to Canada; Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany; and John James, a Republican who lost a Senate race last month in Michigan before returning to Nauert, who will now face a Senate confirmation process.

The Times noted that Trump values television skills and Nauert has impressed him with her communication ability. Her selection suggests he wants someone at the United Nations who will not necessarily play a major role in setting policy but will instead take on a high-profile role in selling it to the world.

Nauert is the latest transplant from Fox News to be appointed to a senior Trump administration job, following the addition of Fox News executive Bill Shine as a top communications adviser. White House national security adviser John Bolton also worked as a Fox News contributor.Mercedes Schlapp, a former Fox contributor, serves as White House director of strategic communications.

To me, finding very qualified people makes sense. It makes sense to have someone at the United Nations who can flexibly balance the president’s message along with the rigors of international coalition-building.

I would hope that the position would be considered a major role, not a television puppet.

In Jobs, Lowered Expectations

Jobs numbers for the month were less than expected, while wages inched up by a few cents.

You won’t hear White House crowing about adding 155,000 jobs in November because expectations were for closer to 200,000, average for the last year, leaving the jobless rate at 3.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Overall, there was little change from month to month; the October numbers, which were good, were adjusted downward a bit. Unemployment rates in most groups remained the same.

In November, job gains occurred in health care, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing. The manufacturing jobs were relatively small, in chemicals (+6,000) and primary metals (+3,000), areas affected by the tariffs on foreign metals. The numbers do not reflect continuing layoffs, including the big announcements at GM. Transportation and warehousing increased hiring of couriers and messengers and storage jobs.

Average hourly earnings for all employees rose by 6 cents, or on a yearly basis about 3%.

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