Haley has better political timing than anyone else in the business.
Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley surprised virtually everybody this week when she announced she’d be resigning from her post at the end of the year.
In doing so, Haley has managed something unique. She leaves the Trump administration with her reputation not merely undiminished but actually enhanced. She’s popular with both pro- and anti-Trump factions on the right, and with shockingly high numbers of independents and Democrats. She has a long list of accomplishments under her belt and no embarrassments or scandals. She is almost certainly the most popular politician in America.
Okay, full disclosure: I’m biased and conflicted. I’m biased because I am a fan of Haley. I’m also conflicted because my wife, Jessica Gavora, works for Haley as her speechwriter and adviser.
Whatever Haley’s thinking is, one thing is obvious: She has better political timing than anyone else currently in the business. She’s not leaving until January, but by announcing it now, she can’t be seen as deserting ship if the midterms go badly.
An outspoken Trump critic in the primaries, she was nonetheless Trump’s choice for U.N. ambassador. There are many theories for why Trump wanted her for the job. Some argue this was the only way to get Haley out of the South Carolina governor’s mansion to make room for her then-lieutenant governor, Henry McMaster, a far more full-throated Trumpist.
Meanwhile, the timing was fortuitous for Haley to leave before the end of her second term as governor. She had recently handled both a particularly horrific church shooting and the subsequent wrenching debate about the Confederate flag flying at the state capitol nearly perfectly.
Even so, it was a big risk for Haley to take the U.N. job. She had little foreign-policy experience to speak of, and the risk that she might be forced to either defend the indefensible or resign in protest was high. Only in retrospect does it seem obvious this was the best job in the Trump administration and that she was the best person for it.
First, the U.N. is the best arena in the world for picking the right enemies. Also, the U.N. ambassador is outside the snake pits of Washington while still at the center of the media world. Haley was also blessed to have a political nonentity, Rex Tillerson, working as secretary of state.
Because it’s a foreign-policy post, Haley didn’t have to weigh in on every Trumpian controversy. But when she did — on the “Me Too” movement, Russian meddling, etc. — she did it in a way that differentiated herself from Trump and his sycophants without seeming disloyal or mealy-mouthed.
The timing and manner of her decision was near perfect. Once again, she’s not only leaving on a high note, she’s leaving as the only prominent Republican around today who can simultaneously unite the party and also appeal to non-Republicans. (Which is why you can expect the knives to come out soon.)
If Trump runs in 2020, it’s doubtful anyone could take the nomination from him. If he doesn’t run, the Republicans could be in desperate need of a minority woman who’s acceptable to a divided GOP and to voters repulsed by Trump.
It’s all about timing, and at 46, Haley’s got all the time she needs.
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