Nikki Haley slapped back hard at White House minions after they first suggested that her announcement of new sanctions against Russia was premature and then said it might have been the result of “momentary confusion.”
She tweeted late Tuesday afternoon: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
As ambassador to the United Nations, Haley probably doesn’t get to watch a lot of movies, even Oscar nominees.
In this fraught and uncertain world, that’s normally a job in which you expect to be woken up at 3 a.m. In blowup-a-minute Trump World, that’s a job that knows no sleep.
But if she hasn’t seen Jordan Peele’s masterwork (so far), she should rent it tonight and do exactly what the title says: Get Out.
At the UN on April 9, Haley said Russia had the “blood of Syrian children” on its hands.
Then on Sunday, a forceful Haley said on CBS’ Face the Nation that more sanctions against Russia were on the way. This time, she said, Russian companies found to have aided the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in producing chemical weapons would be punished. Haley said an announcement from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would be forthcoming on Monday.
Instead, when Monday rolled around, Press Secretary and Walker-Back-in-Chief Sarah Huckabee Sanders disarmed that threat, saying: “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”
And Tuesday, the Palm Beach White House sent out new chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow to opine that Haley had gotten “ahead of the curve.”
Why Kudlow? Who knows? But presumably he wasn’t referring to the Laffer Curve of which he is so fond. Anyway, after Haley’s forceful tweet, Kudlow quickly apologized and ate a helping of crow.
So where does that leave Haley? Sitting behind her nameplate at the UN with her legs cut off, staring at the remains of the credibility she has worked so hard to establish since she was unexpectedly named to represent America at the increasingly hostile world forum.
Unexpectedly because Haley was pretty much a Never-Trumper during much of the run-up to the 2016 election. As governor of South Carolina, she first supported the candidacy of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and when he flamed out, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
As early as the January 2016, when Haley delivered the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address, this daughter of Indian immigrants made reference to Trump’s inflammatory campaign-trail rhetoric. She said: "During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country."
The next month, right before the South Carolina primary, Haley said that Trump was “everything a governor doesn’t want in a President.”
Still despite trading barbs—candidate Trump called her weak on immigration and an embarrassment to the people of South Carolina—and despite any demonstrable international expertise, Haley took the UN post offered her, presumably because she saw it as a stepping stone.
In the past year, she has worked hard to overcome whatever shortfalls she may have had in foreign policy experience and shown herself to be a credible and no-nonsense voice for America.
She has also shown herself to be what many saw when she was governor—presidential timber.
Like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the 46-year-old Haley represents a younger generation of politicians who could have a shot at being the first woman president.
That could happen as early as 2020 if Trump declines to run again or (a more remote possibility) has his presidency upended by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation or by the still-developing probe of his lawyer Michael Cohen by the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Or it might not even take that: Tuesday morning, Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC that he thought Haley could beat Trump in a GOP primary in 2020.
So far, Haley has kept a high profile at the UN while avoiding the sleaze und drama of the Trump White House. She has maintained her dignity and that of the country under trying circumstances. But she is at a tipping point.
Haley has talked tough since she arrived at the UN saying, “For those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.”
One of the names she has frequently taken is Russia, and she has consistently said she believes Moscow meddled in the U.S. elections.
But if Haley allows herself to be upended by Trump and his lieutenants over chemical-weapons-related sanctions, she will be seen as a paper tiger and, worse, a stooge of the Russia-loving President and, indeed, of the Kremlin itself.
Already, Haley has shown that she is not a pushover. But one tweet is not enough.
Now is the time for Haley to do the hard thing—but the right thing for the country and for herself: Get out and show that America still has leaders whose outrage at the slaughter of innocents will not be silenced. Get out before her very bright future is sullied by the Trump Taint.
Of course, it will be hard for Haley to give up her post and her bully pulpit, but in the space of 16 months, she has burnished her executive skills and added foreign policy chops. She can walk away to a think tank, a foundation or an academic post with her head held high while she bides her time and considers her next moves—one of which should be introducing herself to more of America.