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Five takeaways from Nikki Haley’s departure as UN ambassador

Updated October 11, 2018


Nikki Haley. — File Photo
Nikki Haley. — File Photo

George H.W. Bush was 46 when he became the ambassador to the United Nations in 1971.

He served just under two years before stepping down to become chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) after Richard Nixon’s landslide re-election.

New York is a short hop from Washington, but that distance helped keep Bush from becoming permanently tainted by Watergate the way that many of his contemporaries were — even though his perch at the RNC required him to be one of Nixon’s most vigorous defenders as the scandal engulfed the administration.

Bush didn’t become president until 16 years after leaving Turtle Bay, a stretch that included stints as the US envoy to China, CIA director and vice president.

What will Nikki Haley, who is also 46, be doing in 2034? Sixteen years is a political eternity, but that’s the question of the hour after her unexpected announcement on Tuesday that she’ll depart the UN job at the end of the year.

Regardless of what she does next, here are five takeaways from Haley’s decision to exit the administration:


She’s leaving on her terms and with her reputation intact. Haley is getting out before expected Democratic gains in the midterms and before special counsel Bob Mueller issues a possible report that could prove hurtful to the president.

The abrupt and unexpected nature of her announcement also means Haley has “secured her membership in a singular club — the rare former White House official who leaves Trump’s orbit as a political force who could pose a potential threat to the president,” The Post’s Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker write on the front page.

“Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist, said that while Haley’s departure was highly choreographed — ‘Who gets to resign in the Oval Office? It’s unbelievable.’ — the challenge for Haley will be how she bides her time, especially if Trump seeks re-election in 2020 as expected. ‘If she runs in 2024, she’ll have to figure out how to keep her profile active for the next six years, and most politicians can’t manage that,’ Tyler said.”


Haley’s influence had diminished. She was able to exercise more power and had higher visibility when Rex Tillerson was secretary of state, partly because he didn’t want the limelight. Haley was overshadowed by the arrival of Mike Pompeo at Foggy Bottom and national security adviser John Bolton, who has consolidated power from the West Wing.


Who Trump picks to replace Haley will signal which way US foreign policy is headed. The president told reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday night that he’s narrowed down his choice for replacing Haley to five. He said former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, who spent last weekend with Haley in South Carolina, is on this shortlist.

“Trump’s praise for the ‘glamour’ Haley brought to the job suggests that he will want someone with celebrity appeal,” The Post’s Greg Jaffe, John Hudson and Missy Ryan report.

“Bolton, meanwhile, is likely to push for an ideological fellow traveller who will join him in his career-long crusade to obliterate international law or anything that constrains US sovereignty. Pompeo, one of the more pragmatic members of the administration, is likely to favour an ally who will defer to his leadership ... The fear in New York and among the more internationally minded members of the Washington foreign policy establishment is that a Bolton-style hard-liner could make strained relations at the United Nations even worse.”


“When it comes to actual changes in US foreign policy, the difference may be more in the style than the substance,” The Post’s Adam Taylor writes. “[Haley] privately opposed some administration policies, such as a recent reduction in the number of refugees resettled in the United States, and took a harder public stance on Russia than her boss ... [But] she personally supported many of his more controversial foreign policy moves, including recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv and withdrawing the United States from the UN Human Rights Council. She also supported Trump’s push to cut US funding to countries unwilling to support American foreign policy and took a hard line on foes such as Iran and Venezuela ... Her critics will not remember her as an ‘adult in the room’ but as an enabler of Trump’s frequently brutal foreign goals.”


With the departure of an Indian-American woman, the senior ranks of the administration will feature even fewer women and racial minorities. “Haley’s departure leaves just four racial or ethnic minorities among the 23 cabinet-level jobs. One, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, is among the five women left in those positions,” The Post’s David Nakamura reports. “In Trump’s cabinet, the only remaining minorities are Chao, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Labour Secretary Alex Acosta and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose father is from Lebanon. Inside the West Wing, the only ethnic minority among Trump’s senior staff is legislative affairs director Shahira Knight, who emigrated from Egypt as a child.”

By arrangement with The Washington Post

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018