Nikki Haley’s stellar performance as ambassador and at the RNC – opinion

No wonder her appointment caused then-Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon to cheer, and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour to flinch.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a news conference at UN headquarters in Manhattan, New York, 2018 (photo credit: JEENAH MOON/REUTERS)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a news conference at UN headquarters in Manhattan, New York, 2018
(photo credit: JEENAH MOON/REUTERS)
Nikki Haley is a star. There’s no other way to describe the former governor of South Carolina, whose subsequent two-year term as America’s ambassador to the UN was one of the most memorable in recent history.
Her appointment to the latter post by then-President-elect Donald Trump came as somewhat of a surprise. She had supported Marco Rubio in the Republican Party primaries, and when he dropped out of the race, she backed Ted Cruz.
When Trump became her party’s nominee, she announced that she would vote for him, in spite of her reservations about his character and abilities. She then called on him to release his tax returns, a move that elicited one of his notorious Twitter offensives.
Nevertheless, he selected her for the sensitive position based on what he considered to be her professional merit. This did not prevent critics from highlighting her lack of experience in foreign affairs.
To be fair, Haley seemed to many at the time who hadn’t heard of her to be an odd choice for a job that requires not only familiarity with global politics, but a rejection of conventional diplomacy – certainly by representatives from countries like the US and Israel.
Indeed, the best envoys sent by Washington and Jerusalem to the snake pit in midtown Manhattan have been those who refuse to cower before their ill-deserving counterparts, focusing instead on putting delegates from despotic regimes in their place. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and John Bolton are examples of previous ambassadors whose very large shoes Haley was charged with filling.
That she was bound to be better in this respect than her immediate predecessor, Samantha Power, was not a sufficient reason to believe that she had what it took to make any kind of mark.
Still, her record up to that point provided cause for optimism. Not only was she the country’s youngest-serving governor at the time, but she exhibited the kind of clarity on controversial issues that is needed to maneuver an arena filled with people whose main endeavor is to cloud the distinction between good and evil.
For instance, she was a fierce opponent of raising taxes, including on – gasp – cigarettes. She supported school choice and monetary incentives for teachers, to foster excellence. She led the campaign to have the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of her state’s capitol building. She was a right-to-life proponent, voting on bills that would require pregnant women to see their ultrasounds and wait 24 hours before being permitted to have abortions.
She opposed a bill in her state senate that would force transgender individuals to use bathrooms based on their biological, rather than self-identified, sex, viewing the whole thing as a non-issue in which politicians shouldn’t interfere.
She signed a law to crack down on illegal immigration, and supported voter ID legislation. As the daughter of Indian immigrants who went through legal channels to become American citizens, she was unapologetic about this stance.
She also introduced an anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bill. Though it did not mention Israel, its definition of “boycott” – “to blacklist, divest from or otherwise refuse to deal with a person or firm when the action is based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin of the targeted person or entity” – implied that behavior toward the Jewish state was a driving factor.
NO WONDER her appointment caused then-Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon to cheer, and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour to flinch.
When Haley emerged from her first encounter with the UN Security Council and blasted its anti-Israel bias, it was clear that she would be comfortable navigating the Orwellian universe in which Western values are on a lower hierarchical rung than third-world culture, and where a total mockery is made of “human rights.”
From that moment on, she didn’t cease exceeding expectations, defending America – and Israel – in a dignified, authoritative manner, with a voice all her own.
Her announcement in October 2018 that she would be leaving her post at the end of the year was both a shock and a disappointment, certainly to Israelis.
Upon learning of her resignation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that Haley had “led the uncompromising struggle against hypocrisy at the UN and on behalf of the truth and justice of our country.”
Her farewell address at the monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on December 18 was a knockout. The gist of her words was that the Palestinians have been abused by their leaders and misled by members of the international community. She also reiterated, “Israel is a thriving, strong, prosperous country [that] has always wanted peace with its neighbors.... But Israel will not make a peace agreement at just any price, and it shouldn’t.”
Her exit sparked speculations of all kinds, among them that she had fallen out with Trump and the opposite possibility that he was giving her a cooling-off period to set the stage for her being appointed vice president to replace Mike Pence ahead of the 2020 election.
The second theory resurfaced recently, reaching a fever pitch when (now official) Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris – also a “woman of color” with immigrant parents – as his running mate. All such conjecture was put to rest this week, however, when Pence was formally re-nominated as VP at the Republican National Convention (RNC).
Haley’s special combination of elegance and grit was on full display during her speech to the RNC, which she opened by invoking another female UN ambassador: Jeane Kirkpatrick. At the RNC in 1984, Haley recounted, when then-president Ronald Reagan was up for reelection, Kirkpatrick said, “Democrats always blame America first.”
HALEY NOTED that they’re still doing it, and gave a long list of examples as evidence. She began by juxtaposing Trump’s foreign policy with that of his predecessor.
“Now, the UN is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “It’s a place where dictators, murderers and thieves denounce America, and then put their hands out and demand that we pay their bills. Well, President Trump put an end to all of that with his leadership. We did what Barack Obama and [his vice president] Joe Biden refused to do. We stood up for America, and we stood against our enemies.”
She went on: “Obama and Biden let North Korea threaten America. President Trump rejected that weakness, and we passed the toughest sanctions on North Korea in history. Obama and Biden let Iran get away with murder and literally sent them a plane full of cash. President Trump did the right thing and ripped up the Iran nuclear deal. Obama and Biden led the United Nations to denounce our friend and ally, Israel. President Trump moved our embassy to Jerusalem, and when the UN tried to condemn us, I was proud to cast the American veto.”
Haley also compared Trump’s domestic policy with that of his contenders, saying a “Biden-Harris administration would be much, much worse [than the previous Democratic administration, because] last time, Joe’s boss was Obama. This time, it would be [Nancy] Pelosi, [Bernie] Sanders and ‘the Squad’ [made up of radical left-wing Democrat House reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan]. Their vision for America is socialism, and we know that socialism has failed everywhere.”
The most powerful passage of her speech was devoted to underscoring the beauty of the United States, and criticizing the Democrats for viewing it otherwise.
“This is personal for me,” she said. “I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. They came to America and settled in a small southern town. My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a brown girl in a black-and-white world. We faced discrimination and hardship, but my parents never gave into grievance and hate. My mom built a successful business. My dad taught 30 years at a historically black college. And the people of South Carolina chose me as their first minority and first female governor.”
America is a “work in progress,” she stressed. “Now is the time to build on that progress and make America even freer, fairer and better for everyone. That’s why it’s so tragic to see so much of the Democratic Party turning a blind eye toward riots and rage. The American people know we can do better. And, of course, we value and respect every black life. The black cops who have been shot in the line of duty matter. The black small-business owners who have watched their life’s work go up in flames... matter. The black kids who’ve been gunned down on the playground – their lives matter, too.”
Her finale was stunning.
“America isn’t perfect, but the principles we hold dear are perfect,” she concluded. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America. It’s time to keep that blessing alive for the next generation. This president and this party are committed to that noble task. We seek a nation that rises together, not falls apart in anarchy and anger.”
Whether her message resonates with a majority of Americans remains to be seen at the ballot box on November 3. But Israelis could use a similar reminder about the Jewish state that they spend so much time denigrating.
Haley, of all people, would agree.