President-Elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“Gov. Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” said Trump in an official statement.
“People like Nikki Haley and Mike Pence or potentially a Mitt Romney or even a Tulsi Gabbard serve many purposes for Trump.”
“She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage,” he said.
The move comes as somewhat of a surprise to many, given Haley’s fierce opposition to Trump’s candidacy. Indeed, during her response to President Obama’s state of the union address in January, Haley took an indirect dig at Trump and his campaign.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,” she said. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
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Haley confirmed she was talking about Trump the following day. “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk,” she said on the “The Today Show.”
It is hardly surprising, then, that while Haley’s selection largely drew praise, some of Trump’s supporters view the move with mild trepidation — especially as it comes on the heels of Trump indicating Tuesday that he would not move to investigate, let alone prosecute, Hillary Clinton.
Adding to that trepidation is the joy with which Establishment Republicans and neoconservatives are greeting Haley’s appointment. “Nikki Haley is a good pick for several reasons; one is that it’s a terrific ‘F__ You’ from Trump to the alt-right,” tweeted Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol.
Leonard Leo, a former delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission under George W. Bush, also praised Haley. “Gov. Nikki Haley will bring the right principles and priorities to the job of U.N. ambassador. Having served as a governor, she will be able to spot instances where the U.N. is seeking to curb the sovereign interests of our country,” Leo said.
“She is committed to human dignity and will be able to push back on U.N. agendas that elevate abortion over the real human and civil rights atrocities that occur in dictatorships around the world. And she will be a friend to Israel and our own national security interests,” he continued.
Populist Trump supporters angry at Haley’s appointment may be overreacting, says Eddie Zipperer, assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.
“Trump supporters who are twisting themselves into knots over the appointments should calm down a little,” Zipperer told LifeZette.
“Trump doesn’t need yes-men and yes-women surrounding him. We’ve seen over and over in his campaign that he is at his best when he surrounds himself with a diversity of opinions. Ultimately, all the major policy decisions will be Trump’s,” Zipperer said.
Haley’s appointment also fits with the desire Trump has displayed lately to be a unifier. In the last week, Trump has said he will work with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, has held a meeting with The New York Times, and has revealed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another former fierce critic, is a top contender for the position of secretary of state.
It may be that many movement conservatives can accept the appointment of Hayley to the U.N. but would be far more concerned with the installment of Romney to such a high post. Romney went out of his way to undermine Trump’s campaign. Early Trump backer and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said on Wednesday that appointing Romney would be insulting to Trump’s supporters. “It would be a real insult to all those Donald Trump voters who worked really hard,” Huckabee said.
“When you go after the person that is the nominee of your party, who has been duly nominated by the voters, and then you’re savaging the voters, you’re not just savaging Donald Trump,” Huckabee said.
But “people like Nikki Haley and Mike Pence or potentially a Mitt Romney or even a Tulsi Gabbard serve many purposes for Trump,” noted Zipperer. “First, they’re all smart, talented, and have a diversity of experience. Second, they create unity by showing people that Trump isn’t the thin-skinned, madman, mafia-boss ideologue that the mainstream media has tried to portray him as,” Zipperer said. “Like I’ve been saying for nearly a year, he’s a dealmaker and a pragmatist.”
Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, was also supportive of Haley’s selection. “I think it’s a great move by President-Elect Trump,” said Phillips. “It adds someone to his circle who was a critic of his and neutralizes them as a critic,” he added. “It [also] shows that he is reaching out beyond his circle [of] supporters to other parts of the Republican Party.”
Trump has also made several high-ranking selections lauded by his staunchest populist supporters, including bringing Steve Bannon into the White House as chief strategist and naming Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general.
As Phillips noted, bringing a relatively well-known Establishment figure like Hayley into his fold prevents her from criticizing Trump like she did during the primaries.
“I think his strategy is to bring in the major GOP viewpoints to mix with his own but to shut the party’s door on the neocon hawks and leave them out in the cold, and I think it’s a genius strategy,” said Zipperer.
“In the short run, it will make his staunchest supporters mad, but in the long run, it will increase his power and influence and buy him more political capital to cash in when his policies hit the legislature.”