October 17, 2018

OFF AND RUNNING:

Nikki Haley at the Council for National Policy: Inside the conference rooms of power: the former US ambassador to the United Nations speaks about working with Trump (Max Blumenthal, 10/16/18, Harper's)


Less than a week before her resignation, Ambassador Haley made a pilgrimage to a decidedly immoderate, highly secretive organization of right-wing, mostly evangelical Republican operatives known as the Council for National Policy, or CNP. Her appearance before the group featured her last major speech before she announced that she would leave her official post. There was no public notice, no transcript. I was present as the only journalist inside the closed-door gathering.

Haley's appearance before the CNP was structured like a campaign fund-raiser, opening with a prepared stump-style speech that segued into an informal question-and-answer session. She riled the crowd with boastful yarns about facing down global evildoers, and revealed that she used the widespread perception of President Trump as erratic and unpredictable to frighten her Chinese counterparts. She once attempted to intimidate the Chinese ambassador with threats of a military invasion of North Korea, she said, warning that she had no idea what her boss was capable of. In a way, Haley had deployed a version of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon's "madman theory," holding up Trump as an unstable actor who might do anything. It seemed that she herself also genuinely had no idea what Trump would do.

Haley had been scheduled to speak to the CNP for a half hour, but as she completed her scripted address and took a seat for an off-the-cuff Q&A with Tony Perkins, the CNP's president, she appeared in no hurry to leave. Lapping up the council's adulation, Haley stayed over her time for an extended series of candid, and at times disturbing, recollections of Trump's campaign of maximum pressure against North Korea. She began by recounting a debate with the president on his planned remarks before the UN General Assembly in September 2017. When she learned that Trump planned to denigrate the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man," she said she urged him to remove the line.

"I told the president, 'This is the UN; it's a little more formal of a setting than a campaign rally,'" Haley remembered, holding back laughter. [...]

Haley told the CNP crowd that Priebus initially offered to make her secretary of state. "I thought the job should go to someone who didn't have the same learning curve," she said, conceding that she was not qualified for a top diplomatic position.

Days later, the president pitched another opportunity: US Ambassador to the UN. "I told [Trump], 'Honestly, I don't even know what the UN does,'" Haley revealed. The crowd erupted with sympathetic laughter and applause, apparently untroubled by Haley's confession of ignorance.

"I finally decided that I could take the job, but with a few conditions," she continued. "I told the president I wanted to be a cabinet secretary. And he said, 'I can do that.' I said I wanted to serve on his National Security Council. 'Done.' Then I said I'm not going to be a wallflower or a spokesperson. I want to be able to have a decision-making role and give my advice on policy. And he said, 'Done!'"

As she wrapped up her remarks, Haley beamed with pride and placed her right hand to her heart. "I have been able to lead the state that raised me and been able to serve the country I love so much," she declared. "I have been such a lucky girl."

She then basked in a standing ovation, smiling as she accepted her anointing by the cabal of well-funded activists that effectively represented the vast right wing. [...]

A diplomat who was present for several meetings with members of Trump's foreign policy team over UN-related matters told me that Haley formed a personal vendetta when the General Assembly voted to condemn Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. " The US will be taking names," Haley rumbled before the December vote, vowing to punish nations that defied her boss. She then moved in to strangle the UNRWA, pushing for heavy cuts in US funding to the agency. In doing so, she appeared to be courting support from one of the most influential donors to the Republican Party. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire confidant of Netanyahu who contributed $5 million to Trump's inauguration, had been the largest donor to the 527 political organizations that Haley formed while serving as South Carolina's governor, with $250,000 in 2016. Her legacy of pro-Israel rabble rousing at the United Nations virtually guaranteed that Adelson's beneficence would continue and will likely expand if she embarks on a presidential run.

Haley's choice of aides at the United Nations offered another indication that she saw the high-profile diplomatic post as a springboard to the White House. Her top advisor at the United Nations was not a foreign policy expert but a veteran Republican consultant from her home state named Jon Lerner. A former adviser to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a neoconservative darling, Lerner identified his mentor as Arthur Finkelstein, the notoriously cutthroat Republican operative who advised Netanyahu's 1996 run for Israeli prime minister and helped him cobble together his 2013 right-wing governing coalition.

Haley's lonely fight against Israel's enemies was calculated to appeal not only to the Likudnik GOP donors who saw the self-proclaimed Jewish state as their fortified home, but also to the evangelicals who viewed the country as a landing pad for the Messiah. These included Tim LaHaye, a CNP veteran who coauthored the best-selling Left Behind series: Armageddon fantasy novels that identify the UN secretary-general as the Antichrist. If the admiring treatment Haley received from the CNP was any indication, she could count on support from rapture-ready pastors across the country, along with the flock of grassroots Republicans they shepherded to the polls each election day.

Posted by at October 17, 2018 12:57 PM

  

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