WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has nominated former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to be his ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — a job that could test the former Texas senator’s diplomacy skills.
Hutchison, who represented Texas in the U.S. Senate from 1993 through 2013, will represent the nation in the increasingly fractured diplomatic alliance of the western world. Since her name was first floated for the role weeks ago, Trump has alienated political leaders of the three most powerful European countries: the United Kingdom, France and Germany. In recent weeks, the president taunted the mayor of London in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on that city.
Further complicating Hutchison's new assignment, during a trip to Europe in May, Trump wavered on supporting a long-standing agreement within NATO that if one country is attacked, all other countries will respond.
NATO was created after World War II to counter the expansion of Soviet power in Eastern Europe.
The potential weakening of NATO could also put Hutchison on the forefront of the increasingly strange U.S. diplomatic relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump administration officials.
Hutchison is a safe bet for confirmation, barring any unforeseen developments. She only recently retired from the chamber and had strong alliances within both her Republican conference and among some Democrats.
Hutchison's former Senate colleague, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, issued a statement Thursday evening supporting the nomination.
“Throughout her career in public service, Kay’s dedication to helping others and advancing commonsense Texas values has been second to none," he stated. "With a proven track record of getting results, she has always done what she thought was in the best interest of Texas and our country.
“I have no doubt she will now bring her tireless advocacy and fierce work ethic to the world stage on behalf of the American people," he added. "I’m thankful she has once again answered the call to service, and I look forward to supporting my fellow Texan’s nomination before the U.S. Senate.”
Upon Senate confirmation, her new boss will be a fellow Texan, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil. The Tribune reported in May that Hutchison was a key player in preparing Tillerson for his confirmation hearing: She interrogated him in practice sessions, known in Washington as “murder boards.”
Hutchison is the fourth prominent Texan to receive a Trump appointment. U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Tillerson are confirmed Cabinet members. In early June, Trump appointed Dallas GOP bundler Ray Washburne to serve as president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a government agency that directs private capital into the developing world.
Disclosure: Exxon Mobil Corp. has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. The author of this article briefly worked for Kay Bailey Hutchison more than a decade ago.