Nikki Ha­ley had it all

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

She had it all: A great per­sonal story as a first-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can, a lik­able per­son­al­ity, a solid po­lit­i­cal record, an un­com­mon abil­ity to hit the ground run­ning with ease and com­pe­tence, and a golden op­por­tu­nity that made her a house­hold name and earned her an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion.

Then she wrote a book — and blew it.

Nikki Ha­ley, for­mer South Carolina gover­nor — and more re­cently the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions — sand­blasted her care­fully crafted fa­cade and, in a trans­par­ent act of virtue sig­nal­ing, stabbed two of her for­mer col­leagues and fel­low Cabi­net mem­bers be­tween the shoul­der blades. Her re­turn to the pub­lic stage can best be de­scribed as a god­dess ex machina, whereby she de­scended from the up­per realms to dis­pense wis­dom and hurl thun­der­bolts into the hearts of any who would deny her.

No one did. In­deed, for the past sev­eral days, Ha­ley and her just-re­leased mem­oir, “With All Due Re­spect: De­fend­ing America With Grit and Grace,” have been the talk of the town. News shows have homed in on a sin­gle al­le­ga­tion that seems to have been de­signed to pro­duce TV teasers about “shock­ing rev­e­la­tions” — that Rex Tiller­son, for­mer sec­re­tary of state, and John F. Kelly, for­mer White House chief of staff and a re­tired Marine Corps gen­eral, had tried to un­der­mine Pres­i­dent Trump and asked Ha­ley to help.

Im­peach­ment, Ukraine and Trump’s fit­ness to serve: Take­aways from Nikki Ha­ley’s ‘ To­day’ in­ter­view

For­mer U.N. am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley on Nov. 12 gave her first live in­ter­view since her res­ig­na­tion to dis­cuss ma­jor top­ics cov­ered in her new book. (Al­lie Caren/ The Wash­ing­ton Post).

More to the po­lit­i­cal point, Ha­ley es­sen­tially launched her next act — pos­si­bly as Trump’s vice-pres­i­den­tial run­ning mate (with all due re­spect to Mike Pence), or as a 2024 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Like clock­work, the pres­i­dent tweeted ku­dos and en­cour­aged fol­low­ers to buy the book.

What­ever her ul­ti­mate mo­tive, Ha­ley clearly de­cided that step­ping on Tiller­son and Kelly was in her po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est. There can have been no other rea­son to drag these two hon­or­able, ac­com­plished men through the mud for, by her own ac­count, try­ing to mit­i­gate some of Trump’s more de­struc­tive im­pulses.

Rather than sign on, Ha­ley claims to have been of­fended by this con­spir­acy of good in­ten­tions. In her book and in sev­eral re­cent tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances, her halo blind­ingly bright, Ha­ley has said Kelly and Tiller­son thought they were aim­ing to “save the coun­try” by at­tempt­ing end runs around Trump.

They wouldn’t have been the only ones, ac­cord­ing to last year’s anony­mous op-ed in the New York Times in which the au­thor sim­i­larly claimed that White House staffers and of­fi­cials have been try­ing to save the coun­try by work­ing from within, some­times against the pres­i­dent’s ex­pressed wishes, which can change in a flash.

The resur­fac­ing of these claims — and the anony­mous au­thor’s up­com­ing book — could help ex­plain why good men and women con­tinue to en­ter this de­cid­edly dys­func­tional White House. Be­ing in­side the White House may be a better po­si­tion from which to man­age the beast within.

It’s a pickle. Do you ig­nore an im­ma­ture pres­i­dent and take turns plug­ging the hole in the dike? (Hey, Ha­ley, we could use some help over here!) Or, do you do ev­ery­thing in your power to avoid ac­tions that might cause the dike to crum­ble? One thing you don’t do, ob­vi­ously, is con­fide in an un­scrupu­lous, self-serv­ing fu­ture pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Ha­ley’s loy­alty to Trump at the ex­pense of Tiller­son and Kelly is both a hat-tip to Trump’s base and a curtsy to the pres­i­dent. She plainly made a po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion that peo­ple would find “her truth” coura­geous and that flat­tery aimed at Trump would not be wasted. “To un­der­mine a pres­i­dent is re­ally a very dan­ger­ous thing, and it goes against the Con­sti­tu­tion and it goes against what the Amer­i­can peo­ple want,” Ha­ley in­toned dur­ing a CBS News in­ter­view.

This would be true if said pres­i­dent weren’t al­most daily threat­en­ing to de­stroy or­der in the civ­i­lized world and didn’t be­have as though he were check­ing off the char­ac­ter­is­tics of nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity dis­or­der. But there’s an in­her­ent irony in bank­ing one’s fu­ture on preach­ing loy­alty through dis­loy­alty. To what end does such a rev­e­la­tion, if true, war­rant such tongue-wag­ging?

Alas, it seems that Ha­ley, whom I’ve ad­mired since be­fore she be­came gover­nor, bought her own myth and sold it cheap. Through her preen­ing virtue, she has re­vealed her­self to be more Lucy from “Peanuts” than Erin Brock­ovich — a car­toon­ish fuss­bud­get stump­ing for blue rib­bons and bows rather than a whistle­blower act­ing in the ser­vice of the greater good.


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