El Dorado News-Times

Nikki Haley is done waiting

- Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between.

On Feb. 15, former South Carolina governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced her candidacy for the Republican presidenti­al nomination. The Washington Examiner spoke with Haley after the announceme­nt. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Washington Examiner: What did today feel like?

Nikki Haley: Truly, I love this state so much, and I was so motherly to this state. And so to feel the love back but to also feel the love back from so many Americans, it was overwhelmi­ng, but it also gave me a charge. We’ve got some work to do. We’ve got to start getting it done. But they want a new generation. They want new energy. They don’t want the status quo. They want to see things change. And so, I feel more motivated than ever to go and prove to them that we can do this. … Look, I’ve never been in Washington, and I don’t think you need to be 80 years old to get there. I think that it’s time that we understand that people who have served, they’ve done their time. We need a new crop of people. We’ve got to start getting politician­s to realize you either do your job or you get out. And right now, that’s not happening. We need term limits in Congress, but more importantl­y, we need people in Washington to listen to the American people.

You could hear this crowd today. They know what it means to go to the grocery store and see what inflation has done to them. They know what it means to look at their child’s test scores and worry about whether they’re ever going to catch back up. … And they want America to be better than it was for them for their kids. And for the first time in our country, parents are worried their kids won’t have it as good as they are. That’s unacceptab­le, and it’s not OK. And as a mom with kids, we have to do this for our kids. We have to.

Washington Examiner: I spoke to a woman in the crowd in her 80s, and she voted for President Trump twice, but she was bothered by his attacks on you, that you were too ambitious.

Nikki Haley: If ambitious means successful, I’ll take it. And I think successful people are ambitious, and I think that I have always worked hard, but more importantl­y, I’ve always proved results. You can look at my time as governor. We had double-digit unemployme­nt. We got it down to a 15-year low. We created the “Beast of the Southeast.” We reformed education. We opened it up to charter schools. We did E-Verify. We did voter ID. When I went to the U.N., I took the “Kick Me” sign off our backs. I had America respected again.

Washington Examiner: Let’s talk a little bit about foreign policy. We’re in a very interestin­g place right now, with the American people, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican, feeling vulnerable in watching that first balloon over the country. Talk about China. You were an ambassador to the U.N. Talk about that relationsh­ip, about the fact that (Secretary of Defense Lloyd) Austin, when he called, nobody answered the phone.

Nikki Haley: It’s an embarrassm­ent. It’s just an embarrassm­ent. When I dealt with China, we told them what we expected of them. Biden’s not telling countries anything. He’s showing them what he expects of them by letting Afghanista­n … by watching the surrender in Afghanista­n, by falling all over himself [to get an] Iran deal, by letting all of this happen with Russia and not being tough from the very beginning like he should have.

Washington Examiner: Even during the worst part of the Cold War, there were still channels open between the U.S. government and Russia. There were still conversati­ons. As president, is that something that you think we need to be able to do so that we don’t get into these situations?

Nikki Haley: Oh, we’ll have conversati­ons with China after we take their funding out of our universiti­es, after we have them stop stealing our intellectu­al property, after we make sure there’s no spy balloons going over, after we build up our military. Then we will have hard conversati­ons with China. The problem is Republican­s and Democrats for too long have thought that if we were nice to China, they would want to be like us. They don’t want to be like us. They’re communists. They think the West are the great sinners. We have to change the way we treat them.

Washington Examiner: You’re president of the United States. How are you going to handle Ukraine? How would you have done things differentl­y?

Nikki Haley: Stronger and faster from the very beginning. The war in Ukraine is not about Ukraine. It’s about freedom. And our focus has to be on making sure that Ukraine has everything they can to win this war. We don’t need to put troops on the ground. We don’t need to get blank checks. But when they need equipment, you give them the equipment because they have the will and the passion to save their country and fight for freedom. If Russia wins this war, we’re going to have a problem with China and Iran. If Russia loses this war, it will send a message to all of our enemies that they don’t want to go there. That’s why this matters. And if Ukraine loses, Russia won’t stop with Ukraine.

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