The big winner in Rex Tillerson's firing: Heather Nauert
Marie Harf, eat your heart out. Heather Nauert, who took the job State Department spokesman job Harf had under John Kerry's leadership, has just gotten a huge promotion in the wake of SecState Rex Tillerson's departure. Matthew Lee and Josh Lederman of the AP explain both the behind-the-scenes conflict between the two State Department officials and the importance of the promotion that seems to have caught even Nauert by surprise:
Nauert's meteoric rise comes even though just a week ago she seemed not long for the job. Then Tillerson lost his.
She was denied the kind of close access to the boss that all recent successful State Department press secretaries enjoyed. So Nauert tried to defend Trump's top diplomat and explain his activities to reporters from around the world without being able to travel on any of Tillerson's international trips or attend most of his Washington meetings.
Frustrated at being sidelined, Nauert almost quit several times. She had been telling associates she was ready to move on.
With Tillerson's departure, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, who had defended Tillerson in his conflicts with President Trump, has also been fired, and Nauert appointed to that very senior-level executive post in the Department of State.
Nauert told associates she was taken aback and recommended a colleague for the job. But when White House officials told her they wanted her, she accepted.
The new role gives Nauert responsibilities far beyond the regular news conferences she held in the briefing room. She is overseeing the public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas U.S. embassies, consulates and other posts. She is in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from the Islamic State group and others. She can take a seat, if she wants, on the Broadcasting Board of Governors that steers government broadcast networks such as Voice of America.
Nauert's background is in journalism. She has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and, after a stint at ABC News, joined Fox News Channel. You can expect mockery of Trump choosing from the Fox stable of talent, as he has done before (and may do again), and for choosing another stunningly beautiful woman (see Hope Hicks and Kirstjen Nielsen) for executive responsibilities.
I have long been impressed with Heather Nauert's obvious intelligence and her articulate poise. But I have no information at all on her executive abilities. It is one thing to be a spokesman and another to be in charge of hundreds or thousands of subordinates, many of whom may be reluctant to support the president and his designated boss for them. I don't rule out the possibility of her being a capable executive, but I appreciate the nature of the challenge ahead.