America, Nikki Haley wants you to know she's ready when you are.
Whenever that may be.
Our former governor and United Nations ambassador elbowed her way back into the national spotlight over the weekend, ostensibly to promote her new book. As usual, she had explosive revelations to ensure maximum publicity.
- Haley says the secretary of state and White House chief of staff once tried to co-opt her to sabotage President Donald Trump’s more loony ideas.
- She claims no interest in replacing Mike Pence as vice president, even if she doth protest too much.
- And, throwing out red meat to the base, she called the impeachment inquiry a “death sentence” and, ultimately, baloney.
Because, she reasons, even if the president did withhold aid to Ukraine and lean on its government to investigate his political rivals, the Ukrainians eventually got the money and aren’t investigating — so no harm, no foul.
Which is sort of like saying that if a guy goes into a bank with a gun, a sack and hands the teller a stick-up note, it’s not a crime if he doesn’t get away with the money.
Unsurprisingly, all this has kept her in the news for the better part of a week. And anyone who followed her career in South Carolina can tell you this is classic Haley: politically savvy, aggressively ambitious and nakedly opportunistic.
A person like that is bound to wind up on the ballot in a national presidential election. And that’s the idea.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Haley’s book and media blitz were an audition for a spot on the Trump 2020 ticket, but that severely underestimates South Carolina’s former governor.
She is playing all the angles while conveniently sitting atop the fence, ready to come down on whichever side is best for Haley.
That could mean keeping her name out there as a) the heir apparent to Trump in 2024, b) a possible VP if the White House decides to throw Pence under the bus … or c) a last-minute 2020 GOP presidential candidate. You know, should the unlikely need arise.
Why else would a 2024 candidate publish a self-promoting memoir in late 2019? Such books don’t have a five-year shelf life. But that's what you have to do to be ready for anything.
Haley long ago proved she has a deft political touch, and this past week only confirms it. She has managed to portray herself as both fiercely independent and a Trump loyalist.
In her new book, "With All Due Respect" (itself a reminder of her willingness to fight when the White House once threw her under the bus), Haley paints herself as a patriotic servant wading through a den of snakes.
She claims Rex Tillerson, Trump’s first secretary of state, and John Kelly, Trump’s second chief of staff, asked her to help “undermine” some of the president’s more daft ideas. Tillerson, Haley says, warned her that if the government did what Trump wanted, people would die.
You know, like the Kurds.
Haley depicts herself as unwilling to go against the voters who elected Trump. At the same time, however, she suggests that high-ranking government officials — even those hired by Trump — think he is dangerously unfit for the job.
That’s pretty masterful. Haley raises serious concerns about the administration while casting herself as loyal to Trump, or at least his voters. Whom she will need one day.
Unlike most former Trump administration officials (and we have a sizeable sample for comparison), Haley has been able to walk away and remain in the boss’ good graces. Why, over the weekend, Trump even tweeted an endorsement/advertisement for her new book — which itself is legally suspect.
Such ongoing loyalty from a man who famously has none is yet another testament to Haley’s political skill. That's the sort of smarts and raw talent that get you on a presidential ballot, and Haley's ready to take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself.
Some pundits say Trump has shown the country the real Haley, but this isn't anything South Carolina hasn't known for years.
And anybody who underestimates her really doesn’t know Kiawah’s newest resident.