AP

A New York magazine profile, out Monday, of United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley goes to great lengths to portray her as a lady politician with lofty expectations—a future run for the presidency is all but assured, those close to her said—who manages President Trump, in part, by playing politics like a man.

Andrew Rice writes:

One of Haley’s political gifts — perhaps the most important, given the burden of sexism — is her ability to present herself with disarming modesty. She wears her obvious ambition in the genteel fashion of the South, where a woman will say “Bless your heart” when she wants to convey the sentiment “Fuck you.” “She is definitely driven, and she will run over people to get there,” says a woman who played a key role in Haley’s rise. “Like a very driven man would.”

Advertisement

But for a savvy politician whose national profile grew with her handling of the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting—where removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse became the most immediate political goal—she’s also in lockstep with Trump as a member of his Cabinet, despite exchanging barbs with the future president on Twitter and attending the GOP convention to “halfheartedly” support him as the party’s nominee.

Just a few of the moments highlighted in the piece when she quietly backed Trump up all the way (emphasis mine throughout):

“Her gut instincts are very similar to those of the president, which is probably why they have been so in sync,” one senior administration official told New York, as a testement to why Haley has eclipsed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Trump’s eyes. “She has been lock-stock committed to the things that people want her to do.”

Advertisement

And although, as the magazine notes, she looked “stricken” standing alongside the president as he took questions at his Bedminster, NJ, golf club about tweeting us ever closer to nuclear war back in August, she stood there anyway “as the president talked about launching a war that could cost millions of lives.”

The piece draws to a close by bringing this point home once again by arguing that it’s unlikely Trump will depose her, even faced with her naked ambition:

...ousting Haley seems both unlikely and unnecessary, given how faithfully she is performing in Trump’s bellicose production...Haley may have started off a long way from Trump, but the closer she comes to the power of the presidency, the less different she appears.

Advertisement

As Rice’s piece would have it, Haley’s been effectively buoyed during her tenure as UN ambassador by the John Kelly Effect: basic competence mistakenly equated with some higher moral plane or political genius simply by appearing to be the only adult in a playpen full of misbehaved children.

Haley, like so many conservatives serving or working closely with the Trump administration, will want to have a political future when this current political era draws to an almost-certainly disastrous close. So she’s trying to have it all: beefing up her foreign policy credentials with a weighty position at the UN—which has included defending Trump’s unpopular Muslim ban and aggression toward North Korea on the world stage—while outwardly maintaining a superficial distance from Trump’s more childish antics.

For hints as to where she’s headed ideologically, an unnamed former Republican Party official who knows her well said Haley, who backed Senator Marco Rubio in the 2016 primary, “believes to this day” that her “and Marco Rubio’s style of politics represents the future of the party, not Trump’s.” And don’t forget that when she was governor of South Carolina—before she solved racism by removing the Confederate flag, a stunt that earned her praise from liberals—she governed as a run-of-the-mill Republican with one eye on the door:

Once in office, Haley lost some of her crusading zeal, governing as a pro-business conservative. She focused on attracting major manufacturers like Boeing to her anti-union state. She championed Republican causes, resisting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and banning abortions after 20 weeks. “Nikki ran as a real reformer,” Landess told me, echoing the disappointment of many early supporters. “But there’s no doubt she was positioning herself.” Above all, Haley served as a relentlessly upbeat promoter of the state’s business-friendly environment. In an order issued to all state employees, she instructed them to answer the phone, “It’s a great day in South Carolina.”

Advertisement

But Haley’s eventual transitioning to the next stage of her political life—like the George W. Bush-era neocons slowly sneaking back into prominent roles—will require a short public memory about her role pushing Trump’s reactive, warmongering agenda on an international scale.

It’s up to us not to let her—or any of the other ex-Trumpers—have their cake and eat it, too. Working in this administration should be a stain that follows these wannabes to the ends of the political earth, even moreso as the president agitates for another war on foreign soil, just as we ejected Bush administration officials from political life for their roles leading us into disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll just have to hope Haley doesn’t know how to paint.