On Haley cabinet speculation, S.C. GOP leaders say ‘why not’?
Many pundits and foreign-policy experts say Haley's lack of experience would make her a strange choice for Secretary of State
Speculation that Donald Trump may pick Gov. Nikki Haley for his cabinet, perhaps even as Secretary of State, has many national political and foreign-policy experts scratching their heads.
Haley’s lack of experience and her rocky relationship with Trump top their list of reasons why she would make for an odd choice.
As many of them have noted in a torrent of global news coverage since Wednesday, Haley was famously against Trump before she was for him.
Haley was often out of Columbia traveling and campaigning with candidate Sen. Marco Rubio in the lead up to the S.C. Republican Primary – a contest Trump would ultimately win by 10 percentage points over Rubio in a six-man race.
Never fully able to hop aboard the Trump bandwagon, she eventually gave him a tepid endorsement shortly before the November 8 general election, followed by a brief congratulatory statement on November 9 that included a call for national unity and her willingness to “partner” with Trump in her role as governor.
Even more famously, the experts also noted, Haley assumed the role of public scold at a very early point in the presidential campaign, just ahead of the primary season when the Trump juggernaut was starting to roll.
That historic moment occurred in her nationally televised GOP-response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in January, when she used the occasion to level a thinly-veiled critique of Trump and some of his policies, and take jabs at his often-incendiary campaign rhetoric.
Though never once mentioning his name, it was clear who the intended recipient was.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,” she said to the camera.
And she wasn’t done yet.
“In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results,” Haley added. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying.”
That unprecedented bit of political stagecraft against a fellow party member, subtle though it was, set off a brief, but vitriolic, Twitter storm from Trump against Haley that made national headlines. It ultimately ended with a bemused Haley responding, in true Southern-girl style: “Bless your heart.”
But now, with Trump extending his hand and meeting with Haley and other former foes, past grievances seem to be forgotten.
So that leaves the one thing that has the foreign-policy experts and pundits on both sides of the political aisle most flummoxed over. And it’s a big one: Haley’s lack of any credentials necessary to perform the job.
“Here is somebody with no foreign-policy experience at all,” David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, a professor of international relations, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in an interview.
“At a certain point you need somebody in the room who knows what’s going on,” he said.
S.C. GOP leaders, voters: Haley could be a “smart choice”
“I can understand some people scoffing,” said Richland County Republican voter Maxwell Steiner, who recently retired after 30 years in various foreign-service roles for the U.S. government. “We’ve had plenty of foreign-policy experts as Secretary who were disastrous, like Henry Kissinger. People said he was brilliant. Yet, do you realize how much blood that man has on his hands?
“Someone like Haley, who’s smart and can manage and has obvious political and interpersonal skills, and can lean on the counsel of experienced foreign-hands in the State Department to guide her, could conceivably do this job just as well as anyone else,” he added. “Heck, maybe better.
“Plus, this fits what the voters just said they wanted – ‘drain the swamp,’ get the Washington insiders out and totally reboot our government,” Steiner said. “Consider this next four years as an experiment in governing. If it fails, I’m sure we’ll survive just fine. That’s what our Constitution is there for. If it succeeds, it could be transformative and amazing. I personally don’t think (Trump) will pick her. There will be too many people in his ear warning him against it. But if he does pick her, then give the lady a chance.”
A Lexington County Republican put it more succinctly: “I, we, just elected a president with absolutely no experience,” said Martin Perrine. “Poof, just like that. Leap of faith. So, am I going to lose any sleep whatsoever worrying about Nikki Haley as Secretary of State? Not a wink. In fact, I hope she gets it.”
Nikki Haley’s approval ratings in South Carolina are high at 57 percent, versus just 29 percent negative, according to a September poll by Winthrop University. So, it’s no surprise that Republicans in the Midlands and in Haley’s home county of Lexington are rooting for her. State Republican Party leaders and officials are on the bandwagon as well.
Here’s what several of them had to say:
SCGOP Chairman Matt Moore of Lexington: “Gov. Haley has established herself as one of the nation’s best governors through strong, compassionate leadership and relationship building,” Moore said via text message. “That same skill set would make her a smart choice for U.S. Secretary of State, or any cabinet position.”
Lexington County Republican Party Chairman Craig Caldwell: “I believe by President-elect Trump inviting Gov. Haley up is a testament to the things she has continued to accomplish here in South Carolina,” Caldwell said by email. “She has done a great job of bringing new jobs here in South Carolina as well as revitalizing the S.C. Workforce Development Program to make sure our labor force is trained and ready for work in order to attract those businesses. To be considered for a Secretary of State or any other cabinet position within the Administration is a great testament to what she is doing.
“Regardless, Gov. Haley along with Lt. Gov. McMaster and Rep. Trey Gowdy, would all be considered a great asset to any presidential cabinet team. It showcases the hard work and effort they have shown here in South Carolina.”
GOP Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington, also a Haley friend: “I haven’t talked to the Governor personally, but as you can imagine she has been quite busy. 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,” Shealy said by email.
“I do feel that she would be an excellent fit for Secretary of Commerce. Gov. Haley has done an outstanding job in bringing business into South Carolina from all across the country as well as from foreign countries, and she has a great sense of business.
“I am certain if President-elect Trump pegs her for any position she will do a fantastic job for our country and make South Carolina proud, also. It will be interesting to see what happens next as the cards are being played. It is a great time for our country to take a fresh look in a lot of areas.
Walter Whetsell, president of Lexington-based GOP political consulting and polling firm, Starboard Communications: “S.C. Republicans are excited about the possibility of Gov. Haley serving in the administration,” Whetsell said by email. “The fact that she’s under consideration says a lot about her qualifications and expertise. The fact that President-elect Trump is considering her says a lot about the kind of administration he’s trying to build.
“No matter whether its at the State Department or Commerce Department, or whether she remains governor here, Republicans in South Carolina are excited about the future. Its been a while since Republicans have experienced the spoils of battle.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham: “She’s done a good job as Governor of South Carolina,” Graham said on his Facebook page. “Nikki Haley is talented, capable, and would do a good job in any assignment given to her. 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 required Senate confirmation vote).”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott: “She is a natural leader, and I think our country would benefit greatly from her leadership if she were to be nominated for a position,” said Scott, who originally was appointed by Haley to the Senate to fill the vacancy of Jim DeMint in 2012.