April 10, 2017

2020 VISION:

Is Nikki Haley Improvising Her Way to Great Power? (Ed Kilgore, 4/10/17, New York)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley just had a remarkably good week: She went public with an attack on the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons, at a time when the Trump administration seemed at sea on the subject. Then the president shocked the world by firing cruise missiles at Syria, seeming to vindicate not only Haley's words about Assad, but also her past harsh criticism of Russia. Coincidentally or not, in the middle of all this turmoil she was named (along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry) a member of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, at the same time that Stephen Bannon lost his seat.

And then, just as the entire political world begged for some sort of broader strategy surrounding the missile strike, Haley told CNN that "regime change" in Syria is "inevitable," which the many politicians and pundits who favor direct intervention to topple Assad gleefully treated as administration policy. Even if it's not, the fact that Haley could take that position and not be called on the carpet by her ostensible bosses (including the secretary of State) tells you a lot.

Nikki Haley benefits from chaos in Trump White House, emerges as the darling of the hawks (James Hohmann April 10, 2017, Washington Post)

Her comments on the Sunday shows also make clear that Haley doesn't think she takes marching orders from Foggy Bottom.

-- Articulating support for a policy of regime change in Syria is not the first time that Haley has gone farther out on a limb than her counterparts in the administration.

At her confirmation hearing, she telegraphed that she'd be an independent voice by touting the value of the NATO alliance and expressing hope that Trump would come around.

In her first address to the U.N. Security Council, she laced into Russia. Even as Donald Trump signaled openness to working with Vladimir Putin, she declared that Crimea does not belong to Moscow and that sanctions won't be lifted anytime soon. "We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia," Haley said unequivocally during an interview on the "Today" show.

She reiterated U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when Trump appeared to edge away from it.

She has also spoken of the need for America to show moral leadership in the world, again putting her at odds with the worldview espoused by her boss.

Last week, before it was clear Trump would order a strike on Syria, the ambassador brought poster-board-sized pictures of the victims of the chemical weapons attack to a speech at the United Nations. In a powerful eight-minute speech, as she spoke of children foaming at the mouth and being carried in the arms of desperate parents, the mother of two was the first U.S. official to publicly threaten unilateral action. "We cannot close our eyes to those pictures," she said. "We cannot close our minds to the responsibility to act."

-- All the chaos inside the Trump administration over the past 80 days has allowed Haley to get away with the kind of freelancing that would ordinarily cause someone in her position to be rebuked. In fact, she's been left alone. As she said on ABC the weekend before last, "The president has not once called me and said, 'Don't beat up on Russia.' He has not once called me and told me what to say."

Posted by at April 10, 2017 6:29 PM