In her new book, Nikki Haley writes that members of Trump’ senior staff tried to recruit her to "save the country.”
Unfortunately, she decided against it.
“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley writes in With All Due Respect, according to the Washington Post, which obtained an early copy.
“It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” Haley continued.
It’s unfortunate that Haley chose to put her personal political ambitions ahead of trying to save the country. What is more, her unfortunate choice to pander to this audience of one (Trump) is unlikely to even help her politically.
It’s unclear from the Post’s account of Haley’s book exactly what Kelly and Tillerson were hoping to slow down or mitigate, but since their departure, Trump has ordered a precipitous withdrawal from Syria (abandoning the Kurds and risking the escape of ISIS militants), and tried to coerce the president of Ukraine to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden.
Haley addressed the Ukraine quid pro quo in an interview with the Post: “Do I think the president did something that warrants impeachment? No, because the aid flowed,” Haley said. “And, in turn, the Ukrainians didn’t follow up with the investigation.”
With all due respect, that’s BS.
After holding nearly $400 million all summer, the “aid flowed” on September 11, just after the inspector general informed the House Intel Committee about the whistleblower complaint. What is more, Ukrainian president Zelensky planned to announce his investigation into Hunter Biden on September 13—an announcement that was scuttled when Trump released the funds two days earlier.
In making this bogus argument, Haley is parroting the talking points employed by Kellyanne Conway last week.
I’d thought Haley was better than that. I was wrong. She was one of the heroes in my 2016 book, Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Went from the Party of Reagan to the Party of Trump. Even after accepting a job in the Trump administration as ambassador to the United Nations, I hoped Haley could walk the tightrope of maintaining her dignity and reputation as a serious conservative while remaining relevant in a party that has become dramatically more populist and nationalistic in the Trump era.
Although she pulled it off longer than almost anyone else, she’s fallen off. Since going to work for Trump, she has gushed about Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk, said she is "proud" of Diamond and Silk, and called Jared Kushner a "hidden genius." Weak!
It’s really hard to take Haley seriously now, as she praises Trump in her book while taking a few cautious shots at specific actions. You can’t cut her much slack, because—unlike some Trump sycophants—it’s clear that Haley knows better, yet is bowing to Trumpism to advance her political career.
Maybe it’ll work, but I doubt it. Erstwhile “thoughtful” conservatives like Haley (and Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse) have learned the wrong lessons from Trump. The lesson they learned is that there is not a large constituency for Buckelyite conservatism. But while there’s sadly some truth to that, they ignored the bigger lesson of Trump, which is that unabashed authenticity covers a multitude of sins, while voters can spot phoniness and weakness a mile away. In caving to Trump, Haley has sacrificed the one thing she will need more than anything: Authenticity.
That’s too bad. If and when the GOP ever discovers that it has to win over suburban soccer moms to be politically viable, they will wish they had someone like the 2016 version of Nikki Haley to turn to. Maybe she could even help save the country.
Unfortunately, that person no longer exists.
What we're left with is a woman who has alienated those of us who used to respect her, yet will never be crazy enough for those Trump supporters who will never forget (or forgive) who she used to be. It’s a shame. She could have been a hero. Or, at least, a contender.