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Romney’s New Adviser Provokes Reactions on Past UN Work

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The appointment last week of Richard A. Grenell to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign staff as national security and foreign policy spokesman has already caused a stir in political and journalism arenas, suggesting that Romney’s foreign policy will be hawkish with Grenell on board.

Grenell, who is 45, joins the Romney camp with a solid Republican resume, having worked for President George W. Bush for eight years as director of communications and public diplomacy at the United Nations. One of his immediate bosses was John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006.

Romney spokesman
Richard Grenell, who is the new national security and foreign policy spokesman on Mitt Romney's the presidential campaign staff.

During that time and earlier, Bolton criticized the UN and its bureaucracy, saying, among other excitable comments, that the “Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” (In actuality, the building has 39 stories.) He also advocated for stringent UN reform and abolishing the Human Rights Commission, which was eventually replaced with the Human Rights Council. Bolton deemed the council a flawed substitution and led a successful campaign to keep the US from joining it. That decision was overturned later by President Obama.

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After Bolton announced his support of Romney’s candidacy, a CBS News blog post described Bolton as Romney’s “newest foreign-policy surrogate.”

Grenell’s new job may also reflect more particularly Romney’s mind-set on the UN. Romney said, for example, that if elected, he would cut off  financing to the UN Population Fund, which promotes the use of contraceptives and midwives worldwide, helps remedy obstetric fistula for women in poor countries and works to end child marriages throughout Asia and Africa. Romney also called Russia a “geopolitical foe” in its behavior on the Security Council.

At least one major writer in the gay community finds the choice of Grenell, who is openly gay, strategic in a different way. Andrew Sullivan, writing of the news in The Daily Beast, said, “For Romney to have an openly gay spokesman is a real outreach to gay Republicans, a subtle signal to moderates, and the Santorum faction’s reaction will be worth noting.”

But it’s an article in The Huffington Post on Grenell that delves into his recent actions, detailing how in the last few days he deleted hundreds of his own Twitter comments, notably those on Democrats and the media. In the article, Irwin Arieff, a contributor to PassBlue and a former veteran Reuters reporter at the UN as well as in Washington and Paris, said he had found Grenell “to be the most dishonest and deceptive press person I ever worked with.”

Additional resources

A Science Prize Complicates Life at Unesco and for the US

Proposed US Foreign Aid Shows Slight Increase

Quietly, New US Policies Align With the UN


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Dulcie Leimbach

Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland, The Hague and Cyprus). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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