Nikki Haley wowed the crowd Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Host Chuck Todd opened the show by interviewing Haley, who appeared via a live remote from Columbia.
Moments afterward, he and most of the panel members didn’t just sound impressed by our governor.
They sounded gushy.
Panel member Arthur Brooks: “Look, Nikki Haley’s the future of the Republican Party. It’s a new day in American politics. There’s a new right movement that’s brewing. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, bands together with Tim Scott, who grew up poor, a black senator from South Carolina, a Republican. Both conservative Republicans take down the Confederate battle flag together to the cheers of South Carolina citizens. This is the trend.”
OK, so as president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Conservative Heart,” Brooks is predisposed to brag on a young (43), non-white, woman governor from a right-wing party long ridiculed as a bastion of cranky old white men.
So what’s so wrong with cranky old white men?
Now check out the “Meet the Press” hailing of Haley from folks who can’t rightly be pegged as being on the right.
Todd: “Would anybody here be surprised if Nikki Haley’s on the ticket in ’16?”
Panel member Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News: “No.”
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: “Without a question (she would not be surprised to see Haley on the ticket). I think she’s a woman, she handled this gracefully, she can speak so well, as you see.”
Todd: “When you meet a moment, right?”
The lingering “moment” for Haley began with the June 17 mass killings at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church and her subsequent, successful call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the front of our Statehouse. She extended that moment of ascent Sunday with her “Meet the Press” triumph.
Loaded question from Todd to Haley:
“You know, one of the issues of (slain state Sen.) Clementa Pickney was the voting rights laws. ... Do you see the issue differently now? Do you understand what some African Americans believe these voter ID laws end up being a way to single them out or disenfranchise them?”
Good answer from Haley:
“You know, the flag coming down was a moment that I felt like needed to happen. That doesn’t mean that I philosophically changed the way I think about other things. I’ve never seen the voter ID as a racial issue, for whites, for blacks, for Asians, for anyone. What I see is it’s an issue where people prove who they are. And I think that’s something very important for our democracy. ... And I think that, having to show a picture ID when you get on a plane, and having to show a picture ID when you buy Sudafed, you absolutely should have to show a picture ID to vote. And what we’ve done in South Carolina is make sure that it’s easy for people to vote, that we don’t make it hard for anyone.”
Todd later asked: “What do you make of the extra political attention you’ve been getting?”
Great answer from Haley:
“It’s painful. Because nine people died. Nine people died in Charleston. And what we’ve been dealing with is nine funerals. And people like Cynthia Hurd, who said her life motto was to be kinder than necessary, Tywanza Sanders, who was 26 years old, our youngest victim. And as he stood in front of the murderer, he covered up his Aunt Susie [Jackson], who was 87, and said, ‘We mean no harm to you, you don’t have to do this.’ That’s what I want people talking about, the Emanuel Nine that forever changed South Carolina, and changed this country and showed what love and forgiveness looks like. That’s what I want people talking about.”
Todd: “What a wonderful way to end.”
Sure, just as a politician’s reputation can rapidly rise, it can rapidly fall,
Sure, incurable cynics — and our jaded ranks have swollen considerably in recent decades — reflexively doubt the sincerity of any politician on any topic.
But if Haley’s faking profound grief about the Emanuel Nine and her eloquently stated resolve to honor them by making things better, she’s delivering a particularly persuasive performance.
Meanwhile, if more conservatives would strike a sweet tone of unifying compassion like Haley’s instead of an ugly clang of bitter bias like Donald Trump’s, we might lower rancor and suspicion on all sides.
We might even have more respectful, substantive and productive debates on not just voter ID, but immigration, government’s practical limits, health care, education, terrorism, foreign policy and the other pressing issues of our time.
And that should be a bipartisan goal — regardless of who becomes the future of any party.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.