Last week the Senate confirmed Kelly Knight Craft as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. That position has been vacant since the popular and successful Nikki Haley stepped down last December. While we hope that Craft is up to the task of continuing the Haley legacy — as she pledged during her confirmation hearings — disturbing questions remain.
The most serious concerns center on Craft’s lack of meaningful diplomatic experience and her work ethic. While Democrats disagreed with some of the positions taken by Haley at the U.N., they largely recognized her as a hardworking and effective advocate for U.S. interests and concerns. But they aren’t sure about Craft’s ability to perform at that level, citing her excessive absences from Ottawa while serving as Canadian ambassador, and her weak grasp of global issues.
At her confirmation hearing, Craft promised to continue Haley’s efforts to reform the U.N. and to push back on the world body’s institutional hostility to Israel. Those are important commitments that resonate with our community, but they don’t define the entirety of the U.N. job.
Haley was able to build coalitions, advance American interests and call out the hypocrisy and anti-Semitic nature of U.N. institutional policies toward Israel. And, in contrast to most other international and diplomatic actors in his administration, Haley appeared to have the trust and support of President Trump, who allowed her to act independently.
Will Craft be given the same leeway, and can she succeed? We’re not sure. As the 2020 election contest heats up, election politics will direct more and more of the administration’s activities, and nothing in Craft’s background suggests any level of party independence.
Craft’s husband is a Kentucky coal company CEO, and the couple has donated millions to the Republican Party. While presidents of both parties have rewarded wealthy supporters with ambassadorships — like the normally less demanding one in Canada — Craft is the first to become U.N. envoy.
So where does she stand on other significant issues in her new post? Craft recently reversed her position on climate change. In 2017, she told Canadian news media that she believes “both sides” of the debate. That changed at her confirmation hearing, when she told senators that she acknowledges the “vast amount of science” about climate change and the human contribution to it. “If confirmed, I will be an advocate for addressing climate change,” she said.
We hope so. But with her boss withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, loosening EPA rules, opposing auto company consensus to increase fuel efficiency and championing fossil fuels, particularly coal on which her family fortune is founded, we have concerns whether she will deliver on that promise.
We wish Ambassador Craft well, and will join the rest of the world in watching what she does, says and seeks to accomplish on the highest of world stages. JN