President Trump’s first U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, fit comfortably in that eminent circle: She was a former governor who has been talked about as a possible presidential contender, and she acquitted herself admirably at the United Nations.
The first person appointed to replace her — Heather Nauert — was not remotely in the same league. Her chief qualification was that she had been a co-host of Trump’s favorite TV show, “Fox & Friends.” Her only experience in foreign policy was serving for less than a year and a half as the State Department spokesperson, where her only memorable utterance was one she would rather forget. Trying to “reaffirm the strength of our relationship with Germany,” she cited the fact that, why, the next day was the anniversary of D-Day. At least she didn’t cite Pearl Harbor or Hiroshima to affirm American friendship with Japan.
Queasiness about Nauert’s lack of qualifications, even in a Republican-controlled Senate, torpedoed her nomination as much as her illegal nanny problem. But her replacement doesn’t inspire confidence.
Kelly Knight Craft was chosen to be U.S. ambassador to Canada, and now to the United Nations, because she and her third husband, the billionaire coal baron Joe Craft, are mega MAGA-donors. According to The Post, they gave “about $1.5 million to GOP candidates in 2016, including $270,800 to Trump’s campaign committee or his joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee.” Perhaps just as important from this president’s perspective, they are also “repeat, high-paying customers at Trump’s hotel in Washington.” Craft’s other recommendation is that, as a Kentucky native, she is a supporter of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and is said to be friends with McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Those are the typical qualifications to be appointed the U.S. envoy to some prosperous and placid country where the ambassador’s role is primarily social. No president before Trump has ever treated the U.N. ambassadorship as a plum to be handed out to a campaign donor.
What is there to be said in Craft’s defense? Well, she was an alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly under President George W. Bush — an honorary position that was another reward for campaign cash. The best that Reuters could muster from an anonymous source was that “she was seen as a tough negotiator in a new U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico and as ambassador to Canada established decent working relationships with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.” Plus, no war with Canada broke out on her watch. So there’s that.
But the only thing Craft said that anyone will remember is even more embarrassing than Nauert’s D-Day comment. This is her stance on climate change: “I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate. … I appreciate and respect both sides of the science.” This was widely and rightly ridiculed because, while there is a debate about what to do about global warming, there is no legitimate debate about whether global warming is real. There is a scientific consensus on the subject — one that Craft is either ignorant of or simply denies. According to the New York Times, her electronic signature has even included: “Sent by my coal powered iPad.”
If confirmed, Craft will arrive at the United Nations as a laughingstock — just like her boss. It’s hard to escape the suspicion that this is precisely what Trump intends: He is showing his contempt for the United Nations, and indeed the world, by appointing an ambassador who is singularly unqualified for the position.
More than that, Trump is showing what kind of people he wants to surround himself with. The “Axis of Adults” who dared to stand up to Trump — economic adviser Gary Cohn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — is long gone. The adults have been replaced by yes men such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, economic adviser Larry Kudlow and acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan. One of the few holdovers who still dares to speak truth to power — Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats — has incurred Trump’s wrath and is said to be on his way out.
Trump wants to be surrounded by lickspittles and nonentities whose chief qualification is that they will cater to his insatiable ego. Is there any doubt that Kelly Knight Craft would happily join in the North Korean-level praise that Trump expects of his Cabinet? Only she won’t get the chance, since the U.N. ambassador is being downgraded from Cabinet rank. That is entirely fitting, because under Trump, America is being downgraded in the eyes of the world.