The Pros and Cons of Ric Grenell’s ‘Loyalty’

President Trump has named Ambassador to Germany Richard ‘Ric’ Grenell as his new acting director of national intelligence. Grenell is not some national security novice. He has been involved in Republican foreign policy circles since his days at the United Nations during the Bush Administration. But critics say he should not be DNI because intelligence is supposed to be a something that is removed from partisan politics and Grenell is a Trump loyalist.

His foreign policy worldview is in a lot of ways similar to John Bolton’s. As someone who worked for the U.S. at the U.N in the Bush Administration it is not unsurprising that he shares certain characteristics with the former mustachioed ambassador and recent national security advisor.

Both are devoted defenders of American interests and more than willing to twist a few arms in pursuit of that mission. Their uncompromising dedication to what they see as America’s interest has won them many supporters and many opponents.

As ambassador to Germany, Grenell has also made great use of social media. He has used Twitter to call attention to U.S. priorities and concerns. He uses not only the traditional powers of his position, but these new tools of influence to call on Berlin to increase its defense budget, defend the administration’s line on Iran, voice Washington’s opposition to Nord Stream 2, and bang the pots and pans on the Chinese telecom company Huawei.

In addition to being Washington’s man in Berlin, Grenell was appointed point man for Serbia-Kosovo matters in October and has been remarkably successful on such a thorny issue in that short time.

On this being a “loyalist” is not only not a bad thing, it is a good thing. The United States Ambassador to Germany exists to defend American interests in Germany. Grenell excels at this. Loyalty in this sense is not a pejorative. His job is not to go rogue, but to see to it that the president’s goals are advanced.

He can be a bit abrasive at times, but he understands that in 2020, diplomacy is conducted in public as well as behind closed doors. Twitter is just another sphere for diplomats to advance their nation’s interests. In that respect he’s similar to France’s Gérard Araud.

While Grenell has his strengths, he also has his weaknesses. He can sometimes forget that he is the American ambassador, not the Trump ambassador. While it is his job to advance Trump’s foreign policy goals, it is not his job to be a partisan commentator. He can advance and advocate the administration’s goals without immersing himself in partisan terms either back here at home or in Berlin.

The interview with Breitbart where he declared he wanted to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe” was out-of-bounds. If a Germany’s Ambassador to the United States said she wanted to empower Democrats to defeat Trump, conservatives would be rightly apoplectic.

It is this tendency to be a bit too partisan that makes Grenell a better fit at the national security council where he can influence policy or at the State Department in a position that is by its nature political.

Grenell is obviously a smart guy. Those aforementioned Serbia-Kosovo agreements aren’t nothing. He’s clearly dedicated to whatever task is given to him.

But, intelligence is not diplomacy. Intelligence is supposed to be apolitical and sometimes that means telling the president what he doesn’t want to hear. While Twitter may suit his diplomatic skills, it probably is not the best medium of an intel chief.

Maybe Grenell will be successful as acting DNI, certainly partisan figures have previously done good work at non-partisan positions, but at first glance, it appears his talents are best utilized elsewhere.




Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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