South Carolina Govenor Nikki Haley.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – US President- elect Donald Trump has tapped a frequent critic of his during the campaign to represent his incoming administration at the United Nations.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who throughout the 2016 race characterized the GOP nominee’s rhetoric as divisive and who last month described herself as “not a fan” of the man, accepted Trump’s offer of the post, citing her duty to serve her country and the office of the presidency.
“When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of the nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, this is a calling that is important to heed,” Haley said in a statement largely focused on her difficult decision to leave her gubernatorial post.
Haley, along with Betsy DeVos (who was appointed education secretary), are the first women chosen to join Trump’s team in a cabinet level position. She has maintained high approval ratings in South Carolina and has been considered by the Republican establishment as rising star in the party.
“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a statement announcing the appointment.
“She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”
The choice of Haley, 44, a daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants who is an active voice for tolerance, may be aimed at countering criticism of Trump’s divisive comments about immigrants and minorities, as well as accusations of sexism during his campaign for the presidency in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But it also may be an opportunity to bring one of his most prominent intra-party critics under his command, out of the political arena and within the hallways of the UN’s New York headquarters.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said her rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, understood widely to be a rebuke of Trump’s primary campaign tactics. “We must resist that temptation.”
In response to her withering and consistent slights, Trump in March called Haley an “embarrassment” to South Carolinians.
Trump is understood to be considering other critics for diplomatic posts – most prominently, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who called the New York real estate tycoon a phony and a fraud.
Lauding her nomination, one of Haley’s close friends in government noted her strong support for the Jewish state as a critical consideration for her new posting.
“Haley is a strong supporter of the State of Israel,” South Carolina Sen.
Lindsey Graham said. “Her presence as ambassador will be reassuring to all those who are concerned about the increasing hostility of the United Nations toward Israel.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, also welcomed Haley’s appointment on Wednesday.
“Governor Haley is longstanding and true friend of Israel and is an outspoken fighter against the BDS movement in her state, and throughout the US,” he said in a statement. “I know that we at the Israeli Mission will continue to work in full partnership with our friends in the American Mission, as we further strengthen the special bond and shared values between Israel and the US.”
Also Wednesday, Trump tapped wealthy Republican donor and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to lead the US Education Department, a post she has accepted.
DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, met with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Saturday and discussed “the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation,” according to a Trump transition team statement.Danielle Ziri in New York and Reuters contributed to this report