Former US Ambassador to NZ Scott Brown 'pretty disgusted' by politics, not sure if he'd back Trump again

The former US Ambassador to New Zealand is in no hurry to get back into politics, saying recent events have left him "disgusted".

Scott Brown was appointed by former Donald Trump in 2017. A former Senator, Brown endorsed the controversial former reality TV star in 2016 when his candidacy was still seen as a joke by many. As Ambassador, Brown defended some of the former President's views, such as keeping colonial statues in place and challenging the results of the 2020 election in the courts

But he's had little contact with Trump or his team since leaving the role just before Christmas in December, except for "courtesy thank yous and follow-ups", he told The AM Show on Friday.

Two weeks after he left New Zealand, Trump supporters staged an invasion of the US Capitol in a doomed attempt to stop Trump's crushing election loss from being ratified. Five people died in the violence. 

Brown couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"Who would have thought we'd have kind of an insurrection going on? It was definitely a wake-up call. I'm pretty disgusted by politics right now. I miss you all." 

Scott Brown.
Scott Brown. Photo credit: The AM Show

Asked if he'd support his old boss if he ran again in 2024 - which appears likely, based on Trump's recent activities - Brown said he wasn't sure.

"I don't know. It's so far in the future right now, and as I said I'm pretty disgusted with politics. I believe the beauty of not only New Zealand politics but US politics, is we need two vibrant parties that can actually have a conversation without killing each other...  I don't know what he's going to do. Quite frankly, it doesn't have any bearing on what I'm doing now. I wish him and his family well."

COVID-19 response

On his return to his homeland, Brown opted to stay out of politics - instead taking on the role of dean of New England Law, a private law school in Boston. He said the contrast between politics in the two countries couldn't have been made clearer in 2020.

"When you had COVID in New Zealand, it's like, 'Okay! Let's go. Mass social distancing, we're shutting down, bam. Let's go. Let's get it done.' And you did it, and everyone bought in. 

"Here, everyone's arguing and moaning and groaning... meanwhile we're all discombobulated and there's no functionality to kind of get the job done. We're missing that 'all-for-one and one-for-all, Americans first, let's solve problems' - like after 9/11. We need to find a way to communicate and be better people."

Despite New Zealand's vaccine rollout being well behind the US - we've not been in such a hurry, without any community spread of the virus - Brown is holding up New Zealand as an example for Americans to look up to.

 "I took that picture of Six60 with the 50,000 rockers and fans getting together, and I said to my friends and families and others, 'Do we want to get back to this? Then go get a shot.'"

He praised the new administration, led by President Joe Biden, for "getting it out the door", but credited the Trump administration for getting the vaccines developed in the first place. 

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer - who was first off the block - didn't actually accept any federal funding in its vaccine development, and its partner BioNTech received money from the German government. Trump's Warp Speed scheme did give money to other vaccine developers though, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Merck (whose project was terminated), Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline. 

Domestic politics

Brown said Biden's successful vaccine rollout is the best thing he's done so far. 

"First of all, I'm already on record. I know Joe Biden, I served with him - he was the Vice President and I was a US Senator. I want the President to succeed, because if he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if our country succeeds then quite frankly, the rest of the world is in a better position. I think he's done a really, really good job in getting the vaccine out the door."

But he wished the Democrat would reach across the aisle more to work with Republicans. 

"He has made no efforts to do that."

As for Trump's ban from most social media channels, Brown said it was "crazy". Facebook this week upheld its ban on the former President, who regularly spread misinformation about COVID-19 and was accused of stoking the January 6 insurrection.

"Facebook has more power than some countries, and that's a decision I think we all need to be concerned about. These multimedia, social media platforms are really shutting off free speech, regardless of whether you like President Trump or not, there's a question of whether a corporation like this should be really hindering free speech. 

"It's something New Zealanders need to be aware of, and every other country that cares about these issues." 

New Zealand currently has no ambassador from the US. The diplomatic mission is currently being run by Kevin Covert as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.