“We’re Just Getting Started”: Nikki Haley is the Person You Hoped She Wasn’tPhoto by Drew Angerer Politics Features Nikki Haley
It doesn’t take a lot to shine in the Trump administration. For that matter, gaining sainthood in DC is pretty easy in general. Given the backdrop of goons, ghouls, and total sociopaths walking today’s corridors of power, all it takes to warrant canonization is exhibiting one or two traits acknowledging you’re a real human being with a functioning superego. This is especially worth consideration when talking about Nikki Haley.
Since being appointed to serve as Trump’s UN Ambassador, she quickly became known as one of the few “adults-in-the-room” of his cabinet. And she didn’t even have to leave a host of civilian casualties in her wake to gain the title! She checks a number of liberal-approved boxes too: daughter of immigrant parents, first female governor of South Carolina, opposed a transgender bathroom bill, removed the Confederate flag from her state capitol. But cracks are starting to show in her official image and, frankly, it’s about damned time everyone started noticing.
Haley turned heel in the public eye over the past week after partaking in her boss’s favorite vice: Twitter. The most recent self-inflicted dint came on Independence Day.
Spending my 4th in meetings all day. #ThanksNorthKorea
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) July 4, 2017
For what it’s worth, I don’t know why everyone got so riled up about this. Is it fully within your rights to think this sort of remark is trivializing, needless, in bad taste, and so on? Of course. I, however, am still too mesmerized by Mike Huckabee’s Twitter feed to care much about dumb Republican jokes showing up on anyone else’s. Regardless, there’s no doubt she was the main Trump teammate to get in hot water on the Fourth of July.
The main problem with complaining about this North Korea joke is it feeds into the narrative that Haley is the most pristine member of Trump’s coterie. If a not-really-funny, quasi-tasteless joke is the worst this woman is capable of, isn’t it worth just leaving her alone? She’s just trying to do her job. Give her a break for trying to lighten the mood, ya whiny snowflakes!
Oh, but about that job!
“Just 5 months into our time here, we’ve cut over half a billion $$$ from the UN peacekeeping budget & we’re only getting started.” pic.twitter.com/LA7IKqupff
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) June 29, 2017
Ah, of course! There’s nothing quite so bipartisan and inspiring as cutting America’s most obviously wasteful and useless kind of spending: namely, on peacekeeping. And, oh joy! She’s just getting started!
Take a minute to appreciate the 4D chess going on here. One of Trump’s favorite hobbies is not understanding NATO and, thus, continually requesting other countries to pay their fair share. What better way for the US to encourage funding to one prominent international agency than by proudly—strike that: joyfully—cutting half a billion in funding to another prominent international agency. To up the ante, why not promise to keep those cuts coming? That’ll get Merkel to pony up!
All kidding aside, you have to hand it to Haley: it took a really long time for her to get drawn through the Twitter ringer. She still hasn’t gotten a ton of flack from more powerful critics—namely, the main newspapers or the Democrats. For that matter, her lack of international experience—read: she had absolutely none—was the main concern touted by them throughout her confirmation process. But she’s been following the two basic commandments almost all her predecessors have—1) bully everyone and remind the UN at every opportunity that they are a mere paper tiger in the face of American hegemony, and 2) always side with Israel—so it’s no surprise she’s been able to fly under the radar.
In our new UN Ambassador, we’re confronted with one of the more subtly painful realities of our present America: that dark shades of grey look luminescent against pitch black backdrops. She’s the “she could be worse” person in a court of legitimate demons, so she winds up looking like an angel. It doesn’t take an idealist to conceive of a world where cutting half a billion from “peacekeeping” is considered excusable since “covfefe.” All that takes is common sense and a rudimentary belief in decency.
Make no mistake: not being as terrible as the next guy does not make you, or Nikki Haley, a decent person. Consider this: she only took down that Confederate flag after black churchgoers were gunned down by a white supremacist. Until then, her stance on that flag read something like this:
“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of time on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”
So when she removed that flag, when she said South Carolina didn’t need a transphobic bathroom bill, when she did the things that got people thinking she wasn’t like the other Trumpers, was she even being genuine? Or was she just being politically expedient? Considering her support of voter ID laws, it’s not like she has a burning passion to act on behalf of minorities facing suppression in all but the most dire situations. Her solidarity with Israel, paired with the usual disregard for injustice perpetrated toward Palestinian civilians, suggests she doesn’t care much for preventing violence against the oppressed.
So are we trying to elevate a run-of-the-mill, cynical, political pragmatist to a position of moral fortitude she hasn’t earned? In other words, does the “good” Nikki Haley even exist or is she just a fiction we use to comfort ourselves? The answers to these questions should practically be rhetorical.
Her recent tweets were embarrassing, but they’re just our latest proof Haley’s of the same breed as the rest of Washington. It’s getting dark out there, friends, and I wish we had a ray of light in the Trump administration. But it isn’t her, nor is it anyone else. We’re on our own and we’ve got to admit it.