Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson On Nikki Haley's Resignation

Oct 9, 2018
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NOEL KING, HOST:

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has resigned from her post. This morning, she joined President Trump at the White House, and the two held a joint news conference. Here's some of what Haley had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

NIKKI HALEY: No, there's no personal reasons. I think that it's just very important for government officials to understand when it's time to step aside. And I have given everything I've got these last eight years, and I do think that sometimes it's good to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.

KING: Haley had been in the ambassador post from the start of the Trump administration. Joining us now is Bill Richardson. He was the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Clinton administration.

Welcome back to MORNING EDITION, sir.

BILL RICHARDSON: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

KING: All right. So what did Nikki Haley accomplish in this role, and what did people at the U.N. think of her?

RICHARDSON: Well, early on in the administration, she was the most visible foreign policy player given that Rex Tillerson and the national security adviser, General McMaster, were not that visible - did not seem to be that active, engaged with the press. And so early on, she was quite visible. She sponsored several resolutions at the United Nations. She spoke out on human rights issues, sometimes a little bit not consistent with administration policy. But she kind of developed as a star.

Then what's happened recently with Secretary of State Pompeo and John Bolton, two more visible players - more active foreign policy participants - I think her visibility declined. And I'm suspecting that maybe she kind of missed the days when she was the most visible spokesman. I don't know. I accept her statement about being close to family, needing a pause (ph). That happens. But you know, the U.N. job is a great job. It's probably the best job in the administration.

KING: Really?

RICHARDSON: Mind you, I had it. I had it, and I loved it.

KING: The Trump administration very clearly wanted a more independent path in its relationship with the United Nations. And I wondered, did Haley make any progress toward accomplishing that?

RICHARDSON: Well, she had a good relationship with the secretary-general. But she was also the one that had to deliver the news to the U.N. Human Rights Council - we're cutting funding for UNESCO; we're cutting funding for the refugee agency; we're taking that position on Israel that the capital is Jerusalem. These are positions that are not very popular at the U.N. And then the president's statement that we are a nationalist country - we are sovereign, not for multilateralism, not for globalism - that's very anti-U.N. So she may have felt uncomfortable saying that.

KING: Fair enough. All fair. I wonder, having been in this role - just briefly - what do you hope for from the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N.?

RICHARDSON: Well, what you want is somebody that can get along with - there's 195 countries there. And you want somebody that is going to say that Asia, Africa and Latin America are important; that the U.N. is important; that we want to solve problems multilaterally; the Security Council is important. I think we need to keep the sanctions on North Korea strong at the U.N. And then most importantly, I think we have to say to the world, we want to work with you. I think that's the message we want for the next U.N. ambassador.

KING: Bill Richardson was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Thank you so much, sir.

RICHARDSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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