Nikki Haley as ‘Madame Secretary?’
With Trump team working through the weekend on filling his cabinet, Gov. Nikki Haley waits to hear if her name is called
It’s been a crazy, heady few days for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
It began Wednesday, when former Fla. GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” tweeted that an unidentified source confirmed to him S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley of Lexington was under serious consideration as a nominee to President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet – specifically Secretary of State.
That was quickly followed by public comments from an early and important Trump supporter, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, stating both he and Haley were being considered for cabinet posts: McMaster for Attorney General, and Haley for State or perhaps the Department of Commerce, given her pre-politics professional background as an accountant and her focus in office on economic development and jobs.
While Haley speculation remained alive Friday night, McMaster learned earlier in the day his possible Attorney General nomination instead had gone to another early Trump supporter, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Despite that, McMaster is expected to run for Haley’s open seat in 2018 – a bid, incidentally, that would be made easier if Haley joined Trump’s cabinet, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governorship and giving him a foothold ahead of the 2018 race.
Meantime, on the heels of Scarborough and McMaster, came reports of a November 17 meeting between Haley and Trump at his headquarters in New York City, which proved correct.
Further fueling speculation of a possible announcement over the weekend, Haley – who had spent the earlier part of the week at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando – did not fly home Thursday after her meeting at Trump Tower in mid-town Manhattan, but instead remained in New York on Friday and took time to speak to a group of Republican lawyers.
An answer on Haley could possibly come very soon. On Friday afternoon, Trump tweeted: “Will be working all weekend in choosing the great men and women who will be helping to Make America Great Again!”
So far, both the Trump transition team and Haley’s office have been coy about their meeting and whether there was any real chance Haley might be picked.
After the meeting Thursday with Trump, Haley’s office released a statement saying merely: “Governor Haley was pleased to meet with President-elect Trump. They had a good discussion, and she is very encouraged about the coming administration and the new direction it will bring to Washington.”
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and advisor, doted on Haley and showed reporters gathered in the Trump Tower lobby a photo of her and the governor stored on her cellphone.
But Conway was just as circumspect as Haley’s office in her exchange with reporters caught by a C-Span cameraman.
“I just had a wonderful conversation with her. (I) thanked her and her husband for being here and their support as we keep forming the administration. She just went up there to meet now,” Conway said.
When asked what position Haley might be considered for, Conway said: ”We’re just happy to have her here for her advice and her counsel and hearing about the great success story that is South Carolina under her leadership.”
While Haley sits and waits, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker have been reported to also be in the running. Also, Massachusetts Governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was scheduled to meet with Trump over the weekend.
Critics: Haley’s lack of experience an issue
Many GOP leaders locally and around the state have expressed their support of a potential Haley nomination, calling her an exceptional leader who is ready to rise in the political ranks. (INSERT SECOND STORY LINK)
Since Wednesday, however, many political pundits including Republicans, as well as several foreign-policy experts, have scoffed at or at least deeply questioned the prospect of Haley as Secretary of State.
Trump’s stated desire to shake up the Washington establishment and “drain the swamp” by looking for outsiders to fill key roles – even considering people such as Haley who originally staunchly opposed him – can only go so far, several Haley critics have said in interviews and on cable-news show panels.
Despite being a well-respected “rising star” in the party who rose to international prominence last year after the deadly Charleston church shootings by leading the charge to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House, critics pointed out Haley has virtually no foreign-policy experience.
Her most recent foray into foreign-related politics of any sort was her resistance earlier this year to resettling Syrian war refugees in the state, and her adamant vow to fight any attempts by the Obama Administration to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and house terror suspects at the Naval Brig in North Charleston.
And the fact that her husband, Michael, has served tours of military duty in Afghanistan, and her touching story of being the child of Indian immigrants and confronting racism in rural Bamberg, S.C., is nice but beside the point, many of those same critics said.
“Nikki Haley is certainly a very popular governor in South Carolina. A rising star in the Republican Party,” said Republican strategist Steve Schmidt on MSNBC. “But handling the Confederate flag controversy is not a qualification to be the Secretary of State for a nation at war.
“So, we have no idea whether Nikki Haley knows the first thing about the difference between the Shia and a Sunni. Whether she is fluent in the issues in the South China Sea. The issues in Russia. We just don’t know,” he said.
While Schmidt and others raise valid points, a few critics have been downright vicious in their appraisal of Haley.
Trump supporter Ann Coulter, a right-wing author and commentator, tweeted Thursday afternoon: “If Trump wants an Indian Sec of State, how about Tonto?”
An analysis of the backgrounds of previous State Department secretaries indicates Haley would have the least amount of foreign-policy experience since Bainbridge Colby in 1920, who served one year as President Woodrow Wilson’s third Secretary of State. His most noteworthy accomplishment was normalizing relations with the Mexican government following the upheaval of the Mexican Revolution.
Haley would not be the first governor as Secretary of State, nor even the first South Carolinian, a distinction held by James F. Byrnes from 1945-47. Before taking the post, Byrnes had been a U.S. congressman and senator, and also briefly a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
In fact, the post has been held almost exclusively by statesmen and former diplomats, foreign-service officers or department under-secretaries, military, intelligence, and national-security officials, congressmen, senators, judges, and academics or foreign-policy intellectuals such as Condoleeza Rice and most notably Henry Kissinger.
Haley’s overseas experience has been sporadic. A review of her overseas travel showed she’s made fewer than 10 professional business trips out of the country since her election in 2010, and most of those to air and auto shows and for trade missions to Europe, India, and Japan.
“At a certain point you need somebody in the room who knows what’s going on,” said David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, a professor of international relations, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In an interview, he ticked off Haley’s résumé, noting she has “a degree in accounting, went into the fashion business, became a local legislator, (and) went on to being a governor.”
“I thought it was impossible to find someone with less foreign-policy experience than Rudy Giuliani, but bingo,” Rothkopf said. “Here is somebody with no foreign policy experience at all.”
As a counterpoint, several local and state Republicans are in support of Gov. Haley. For their comments, click here. (INSERT LINK)