Biden taps Sully Sullenberger to be ‘ambassador,’ unveils Israel, Mexico picks

President Biden on Tuesday announced that he’s nominating “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Sully Sullenberger to be an “ambassador” while also rolling out more contentious picks to be US ambassadors to Israel, Mexico and NATO.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sullenberger would be ambassador to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a Montreal-based branch of the UN that handles air travel issues.

Sullenberger’s selection is sure to distract from scrutiny of other ambassador picks.

The 70-year-old pilot won international fame by skillfully avoiding tragedy when he safely landed US Airways Flight 1549, which had 155 passengers and staff, on the Hudson River in January 2009 after a collision with a flock of birds caused engine failure.

Biden’s other picks — all announced in the same White House email blast — are likely to draw more pushback.

Biden named Thomas Nides, who has divided Democrats in the past for his work for big banks, as his pick to be ambassador to Israel.

Former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, a Democrat who also was President Barack Obama’s interior secretary, would be ambassador to Mexico. And former Biden aide Julianne Smith would be ambassador to NATO.

Thomas Nides
Thomas Nides is nominated to serve as ambassador to Israel.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Nides, the managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley, for decades has worked the revolving door between banks and government. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is believed to have indirectly slammed his role in government in a 2016 speech that knocked, “Citigroup or Morgan Stanley or BlackRock getting to choose who runs the economy in this country so that they can capture our government.”

Nides worked for Hillary Clinton’s State Department from 2011-2013 and in 1994 as chief of staff to the US trade representative, where he helped pass the NAFTA trade agreement, which was denounced by left- and right-wing politicians and replaced under former President Donald Trump. Between government gigs, he worked at Fannie Mae and Credit Suisse

Salazar, who was slated to lead Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential transition team, also may draw fire from left and right.

former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will serve as ambassador to Mexico.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

Although regarded as a centrist, Salazar would be charged with administering the Biden administration’s rollback of migration policies that were adopted under Trump — amid a migration crisis — including the demise of the “Remain in Mexico” policy that Trump brokered to require Central American asylum seekers to await a US decision in Mexico.

As interior secretary, Salazar also drew fire from the left, including from environmentalists outraged that he allowed oil drilling on western lands and Arctic waters.

Smith, who would lead US interactions with NATO, was Biden’s deputy national security adviser from 2011-2013 while he was vice president. She previously worked at the Pentagon. After the Obama administration, she worked at consulting firm WestExec Advisors, which was co-founded by Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

Smith’s selection was announced shortly after Biden participated Monday in an annual NATO summit ahead of a Wednesday summit meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


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