Bright lights, big city beckon Nikki Haley

S.C. governor accepts call from President-elect Trump to become America's next ambassador to the United Nations

For the past several years, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has been hailed as a “rising star” in the Republican Party.

Pending a required U.S. Senate confirmation vote sometime early next year, her star will be affixed above the soaring skyline of midtown Manhattan as the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Following a week of speculation that Haley was under consideration for a cabinet position in the upcoming Trump Administration – perhaps either as secretary of state or commerce secretary – President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday formally announced the 44-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants from Lexington County would be his pick for the critical foreign-policy post.

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President-elect Donald Trump officially announced November 23 his selection of Gov. Nikki Haley to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. (Photo provided)

After the President and secretary of state, Haley would essentially become the nation’s third-most important diplomat. While the secretary of state helps formulate U.S. foreign policy in conjunction with the White House, the ambassador to the United Nations explains American positions and helps build support for them among the 193 members of the U.N. General Assembly and in the Security Council, where the United States has veto power.

According to the United States Mission to the U.N. website, Haley’s broad responsibilities would be to “advance U.S. interests, promote and defend universal values, and address pressing global challenges to peace, security, and prosperity.”

It’s a job the incoming president said Haley is ready for.

“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. “She is also a proven deal-maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

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The iconic United Nations building in midtown Manhattan. (Photo via UN.org).

“I was moved to accept this new assignment for two reasons,” Haley said Wednesday in a statement on her Facebook page. “The first is a sense of duty. When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed. The second is a satisfaction with all that we have achieved in our state in the last six years and the knowledge that we are on a very strong footing.”

With her acceptance, Haley became Trump’s first female and first minority pick since he began assembling his cabinet last week.

Haley’s confirmation by the GOP-controlled Senate is far from assured. Numerous pundits and foreign-policy experts have complained Haley has no foreign-policy experience or credentials, and that her international experience as governor since 2010 has been relegated to a total of eight trips to Europe and India, mostly on trade missions.

Regardless, local and state GOP leaders have said over the past week they believed Haley would make an effective member of the Trump team given her managerial experience as governor, her widely acknowledged political skills, and interpersonal skills that can range from steely toughness to conciliatory cuddliness depending on the situation.

“Although Gov. Haley does not have a great deal of experience in foreign affairs, she has always stepped up to the plate when called upon,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, a friend of Haley’s and a fellow Lexington County Republican.

“Gov. Nikki Haley would be a strong and effective voice for America as our Ambassador to the United Nations, an often hostile environment,” stated GOP Congressman Joe Wilson of Lexington County. “Her fortitude for freedom and democracy will prevail over constant attacks on America and our ally, Israel. As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I look forward to working with Nikki Haley to advance freedom and democracy around the world.”

“Nikki Haley is talented, capable, and would do a good job in any assignment given to her,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. “I think Nikki is a traditional Republican when it comes to foreign policy – more like Ronald Reagan than (Kentucky Sen.) Rand Paul.I like her a lot. I would certainly support her (in a Senate confirmation vote).”

“She will fight for reform and accountability at the United Nations while advancing American interests,” said former S.C. GOP Sen. Jim DeMint, who now heads the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Despite Haley’s support of presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio and later Sen. Ted Cruz, and her public criticism of Trump during the campaign, DeMint added: “This choice signals President-elect Trump is willing to look past election disagreements and to surround himself with strong, serious leaders who will not be satisfied with the status quo.”

If Haley is confirmed, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster – an early and important Trump supporter – would assume Haley’s post until her term ends in 2018.

McMaster had already intended to run for governor in 2018, and getting two years’ in office beforehand could prove to be a boon to his 2018 chances, a fact that has led some cynics to conclude Haley’s nomination at least in part was a strategic move by Trump to repay McMaster’s critical early support in his presidential campaign.

Under S.C. law, Florence Republican Hugh Leatherman, as President Pro Tempore of the S.C. Senate, would be next in line to fill McMaster’s vacated seat, though it’s unclear if Leatherman would accept the post. The state’s lieutenant governor wields little power, while Leatherman’s seniority and chairmanship of several key committees make him arguably the state’s most powerful lawmaker.

Meantime, Haley said she intended to be a full-time governor for the state pending her confirmation.

Haley’s selection came much earlier than previous ones by former presidents, and before Trump has even picked his secretary of state nominee. That extra time should benefit Haley, giving her time to study up on the myriad foreign issues and crises she would encounter as chief U.N. Diplomat – ranging from the Syrian War and refugee crisis, to Israel, relations with Russia and traditional enemies such as North Korea and Iran, and a range of threats from cybersecurity to global terrorism.

And Haley’s power could likely be amplified. Trump is widely expected to continue recent precedent and elevate Haley’s post to cabinet-level status. That would give her much greater power by allowing Haley to bypass the secretary of state and confer directly with President Trump.

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