An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.
– British statesman, Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639)
Well, Nikki Haley didn’t have to go abroad to lie for her country — unless you consider (as many of her South Carolina compatriots secretly do) that New York City itself is a far off foreign land of which we know little.
I suspect the consensus among honest Republicans and Democrats is that she has conducted herself as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a refreshingly candid and admirable manner. Her announcement Tuesday that she is resigning her Cabinet-level post, effective the end of the year, supposedly came as a surprise to almost everyone in the administration, except the one who actually is the administration: President Donald Trump. He said Haley came to him six months or so ago to state her intention to “take a break” after 14 years of public service, including six she spent as governor of South Carolina and the almost two she will have spent in her present position.
What is unclear is why her resignation was announced before rather than after the rapidly approaching midterm elections, particularly given the just concluded and gender-fraught Kavanaugh hearings. As soon-to-be-retired South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford said, this doesn’t pass the smell test. No, it doesn’t.
Was she asked to leave? The president denies this emphatically, going so far as to say he would welcome her return to his administration. “We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose you,” he said. “Hopefully you’ll be coming back at some point, but in a different capacity. You can have your pick.” Some have suggested that the job she really wants to come back to is Trump’s, but she denies this. “No, I am not running for 2020,” she said Tuesday. “I can promise you what I will be doing is campaigning for this one,” giving a nod toward a beaming President Trump seated beside her.
It well may be that her resignation was prompted, at least in part, because she felt twice passed over when Trump chose Mike Pompeo for secretary of state and John Bolton for national security adviser. Ambition is something this daughter of Indian immigrants has never lacked in her public life. Prior to her being chosen for the administration’s top job at the U.N. Haley had not a shred of foreign policy experience. Further, she was not a Trump supporter during the run-up to the 2016 election, where she first cast her lot with Marco Rubio, and when he dropped out, with Ted Cruz.
It’s been suggested that, assuming she was not politely asked to depart, she did so to take a job in the private sector. According to reports in The Post and Courier and The New York Times, she and her husband are heavily in debt. Whatever the case, it’s evident that when Nikki Haley leaves government, she will be in a position to earn much more than she does as an ambassador. With one child in college and a second about to be, the Haleys obviously could use some extra money. And who can blame them?
It’s also hinted that a second report published last weekend in the Times may have something to do with her resignation. A liberal “watchdog” group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, sent a letter to the State Department’s inspector general asking for an investigation into whether Ambassador Haley had violated regulations concerning the acceptance of gifts. The group cited seven free flights on private aircraft she and her husband had accepted from three South Carolina businessmen in 2017.
Horrors! What will such left-leaning groups go after next? Gifts to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was secretary of state? Bill’s ultra-remunerative speech-making?
Don’t hold your breath on either of those.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.