In what already seems like a lifetime ago but was actually only June 5, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Heather Nauert explained to reporters: “Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government.” When I heard this, two bells went off in my head.
The first took me back to 1985 when President Ronald Reagan visited a war cemetery in Bitburg as the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II was approaching. Before going he proclaimed of the dead SS soldiers buried there, “They were victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.” Back then Reagan’s fondness for Nazi soldiers was considered part of the president’s charming “disengaged” quality—his ability to live inside a fantasy world based on alternative facts, like the one he made up when he claimed that he had participated in the liberation of the concentration camps, despite the fact that he spent the war comfortably ensconced in Hollywood. Now we know it was the beginning of the Nazi-friendly phase of the Republican Party; a line that led directly to Trump’s calling the Charlottesville thugs “very fine people.”
The second bell had to do with Nauert, herself. I recall 20 years ago when she came into prominence as one in an endless series of blond, conservative “pundettes” of the Clinton era. Like Monica Crowley, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham (thanks, MSNBC!), and countless others, Nauert hopped around various networks before finally settling down at Fox, where, as Paul Farhi noted in a perspicacious Washington Post profile, she pontificated on gun control, foreign policy, and the latest Dixie Chicks video. Thing is, while most of the pundettes were thin in the résumé department, Nauert’s qualifications were entirely imaginary. Fox would bill her as a ”GOP consultant” or a ”GOP strategist,” but she had never consulted nor strategized for Republicans at any time in her then 30-year life. ”From the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to do something on TV,” she told Farhi in for a profile in May 2000. The only problem, was: “Reporters are so serious that I have a hard time connecting with them.”
During that June 5 press conference, Nauert was being asked by a bunch of super-serious reporters why it was cool for Richard Grenell, Trump’s ambassador to Germany, to tell Breitbart that he didn’t like the current German government and wanted to “empower” European conservatives instead. In response to this egregious violation of diplomatic protocol, to say nothing of Grenell’s undermining his own ability to work effectively with America’s most powerful ally, Nauert said the exact opposite of what anyone who knows anything about diplomacy knows to be true: Ambassadors have “a right to express their opinion,” she told reporters, and appears to believe. “Regardless of whether or not you all like it, sometimes these things are what ambassadors say,” she adds, no less ridiculously. “I think Rick was pointing out a fact that some conservatives have done better in other countries, and I’ll just leave it at that.” Again, give us a break.