Few members of the Trump administration have survived their early months in office with their reputations unscathed. Fewer still have emerged with their reputations enhanced. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is an exception to the general rule. Based on her brief performance as America’s Ambassador to the United Nations, she will be an increasingly prominent player on the political stage.
During her six years as governor she was known as a star politician. She was not, however, known for being a policy wonk. And she most certainly was not known for having even an ounce of expertise in global affairs which is why, when she was appointed UN Ambassador, eyebrows were raised. But, so far at least, Haley has proved the skeptics wrong. She has proved a quick and serious study. She has shown an unerring instinct for being on the right side of an argument. And she has demonstrated her willingness to take on those more highly positioned than she.
None of this should surprise us. Haley was an extremely popular governor. (In 2014, she won reelection by a landslide.) She had a record of speaking truth to power. (After Dylan Roof killed nine people in a Charleston church, Haley reversed her previous position and crafted a deal that removed the Confederate flag from the front of the statehouse.) And she had a personal and professional history of fighting long odds. (She was not only the first woman to serve as South Carolina governor, she was the first who is a member of an ethnic minority. Her parents were immigrants from Punjab, India.)
Haley’s strong and stirring speech at the United Nations in the wake of the chemical attack in Syria was her most powerful performance as ambassador so far. But, my guess is she’s just getting started. My guess is she’ll soon be at the forefront of America’s political establishment.