Biden expected to pick Louisiana’s Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to U.N.

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UNITED NATIONS (CBS) — President-elect Biden is expected to announce that he’s chosen longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, two sources confirm to CBS News. The announcement could come Tuesday.

Thomas-Greenfield — a Baker native and LSU graduate — is part of Mr. Biden’s transition team and is expected to focus on helping to restore trust and professionalism to the State Department, with a particular focus on diversity

She was a foreign service officer in administrations dating back to President Reagan’s, was an ambassador to Liberia and was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2013-2017. But when the Trump administration came in, she lasted five days before being let go, one of many career professionals pushed aside. 

She moved on to be a senior vice president at the Albright Stonebridge Group, serving as co-chair of the “Advisory Committee for a Council on Foreign Relations Special Report, Revitalizing the State Department and American Diplomacy.”

In selecting Thomas-Greenfield, a distinguished career diplomat, over others thought to be in the mix, such as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor and Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, Mr. Biden is telling the world’s leaders that U.S. foreign relations will be more steak than sizzle. 

“A Biden administration would do the opposite of what the Trump administration has done” when it comes to global outreach and engagement, the president-elect’s expected Secretary of State-designate, Tony Blinken, told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan several months ago.

Along with fellow seasoned diplomat William J. Burns, Thomas-Greenfield penned a piece in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs magazine titled, “The Transformation of Diplomacy: How to Save the State Department.”

In it they wrote, “In Washington, career public servants who worked on controversial issues during the Obama administration, such as the Iran nuclear negotiations, have been smeared and attacked, their careers derailed. 

“To start, the United States needs a top-to-bottom diplomatic surge. The Trump administration’s unilateral diplomatic disarmament is a reminder that it is much easier to break than to build. The country doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for a generational replenishment, marking time as new recruits slowly work their way up the ranks.”

Thomas-Greenfield’s aim will be to diversify the ranks of the Biden foreign policy team. “Diversity requires proactive attention by the administration. And when we look at what happened at the early stages of this administration – when people were encouraged to leave or asked to leave – there were significant numbers of diversity individuals, myself included, who left,” she told NPR in 2017.

Her point: A significant number of women, African-Americans, Hispanics and others have departed senior levels of the State Department.

Several major issues await Thomas-Greenfield at the U.N., including the global pandemic and its economic consequences, climate change, and the nuclear standoff with Iran. She will play a huge role in determining the success of the multi-lateral approach to those thorny issues and many others that Mr. Biden is expected to restore to U.S. foreign policy.

First published on November 23, 2020 / 2:44 AM

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