NEW YORK – Nikki Haley, the popular US Ambassador to the United Nations, resigned Tuesday, October 9, in a joint appearance with President Donald, in the White House. Haley declared that she is not a contender for the top job in the 2020 elections, would support the incumbent, and intended to work in the private sector.
Haley said her stint at the UN, which she began January 27, 2017, is “an honor of a lifetime”. She said she would work through the year, before her replacement took over.
Trump, who sat with Haley when the resignation was publicly announced, lavishly praised Haley for her work, and said she was welcome to join the administration when she was again ready for it, with her pick of job.
“She has done an incredible job. She is a fantastic person, very importantly, but she also is somebody that gets it,” Trump said. “She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together.”
Haley’s move left pundits on Capitol Hill scratching their heads as to the motive behind it, with speculation rife if there was some bad blood brewing between Haley and Trump. The move, at least for the upcoming 2020 elections, has effectively ended the prospect of an exciting Presidential battle between two Indian-origin women: the Republican Haley vs. Democrat Senator from California, Kamala Harris. The year 2024 could revive that prospect, though.
The former Governor of South Carolina, Haley, 46, was born in Bamberg, as Nimrata Randhawa, to Sikh parents from India, Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa. She converted to Christianity in her 20s. She is the first Indian American to serve in a US cabinet, and the first Indian American woman to serve as governor of a US state.
In her resignation letter, Haley touted her successes at the UN, where she was known to have a clear, hard-nosed policy on issues, with excellent rhetoric: pressuring North Korea toward denuclearization, arms embargo on South Sudan, condemning dictatorships in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and Russia, and backing Israel.
Though she didn’t mention it, Haley seemed to suggest in her resignation letter that almost one-and-a-half decades of public service had taken a toll on her personal time with her family.
Reports had earlier said that she had not been back in her home town in South Carolina since she took up the strenuous UN job under the Trump Administration, which also entailed traveling to many countries, including India, where she visited this summer.
On that trip, Haley had bonded with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite her trying to talk India out of dealing with Iran and they had agreed that Indo-US ties are strong and important.
“Prime Minister Modi very much understands where we are with Iran, he didn’t question it, he didn’t criticize it, he understood it and he also understands that (India’s) relationship with the U.S. is strong and important and needs to stay that way,” Haley was reported by Reuters, as saying.
In here resignation letter, Haley talked also of the value of term limits.
“As a strong supporter of term limits, I have long believed that rotation in office benefits the public. Between the UN Ambassadorship and serving in the South Carolina Governorship and General Assembly, I have been in public office for fourteen straight years. As a businessman, I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down but a step up,” Haley wrote.
Haley, who shot into national limelight after she supported removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of South Carolina’s capitol and later endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination in 2016, before patching up with Trump – endorsing him for her vote, would find it now hard going to maintain her high profile, and stay in public memory to make a go for it in 2024. A case in example is the former governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, an Indian American himself, who fared miserably in his attempt to make inroads for the highest office.
Haley indicated in her post-resignation media remarks that the resignation was in the works for the last six months.
Interestingly, six months ago, in April, a Quinnipiac University poll had found Haley to be the most popular politician in the US, cutting across partisan lines, with Trump far behind her. That poll showed 63% of American voters approved of her job performance, including 75% of Republicans, 63% of independents and even 55% of Democrats. In comparison, Trump’s approval rating was 39%.
One can only speculate as to what must have gone through Trump’s mind at that point, and if a strategic move was made then to seek Haley’s ouster well before she became a more viable candidate than him in the 2020 elections.
Reaction to Haley’s resignation was mixed.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in a statement, exuded that Haley was “wonderful representative for our country… she has been just a tremendous asset for those of us here in the Department of Defense.”
Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, was not so generous in his comments: “History books will remember Nikki Haley as a key player in the Trump administration’s campaign to undermine universal human rights and international bodies. During her tenure, the Trump administration withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council and UNESCO, pulled out of the negotiations leading up to the Global Compact on Migration, and attacked a U.N. independent human rights expert investigating poverty in the United States…”
Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois praised Haley, in an interview to News India Times.
“One thing on which she took leadership was on human rights in all countries,” he said. “She was a voice of American leadership in that area and unfortunately she was a rare voice on that issue.”
Here is the text of Haley’s resignation, in full:
Dear Mr. President:
It has been an immense honor to serve our country in your Administration. I cannot thank you enough for giving me this opportunity.
You will recall that when you offered me the position of United States Ambassador to the United Nations in November 2016, I accepted the offer based on some conditions. Those conditions included serving in your Cabinet and on the National Security Council and being free to speak my mind on the issues of the day. You made those commitments and you have absolutely kept them all. For that too, I will always be grateful.
We achieved great successes at the UN. We passed the toughest sanctions against any country in a generation, pressuring North Korea toward denuclearization. We passed an arms embargo on South Sudan that will help reduce violence and hopefully bring peace to that troubled country. We stood up for our ally Israel and began to roll back the UN’s relentless bias against her. We reformed UN operations and saved over $1.3 billion. We spoke out resolutely against dictatorships in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and yes, Russia. Through it all, we stood strong for American values and interests, always placing America first. I am proud of our record.
As a strong supporter of term limits, I have long believed that rotation in office benefits the public. Between the UN Ambassadorship and serving in the South Carolina Governorship and General Assembly, I have been in public office for fourteen straight years. As a businessman, I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down but a step up.
Accordingly, I am resigning my position. To give you time to select a replacement, and to give the Senate time to consider your selection, I am prepared to continue to serve until January 2019.
At that point, I will once again become a private citizen. I expect to continue to speak out from time to time on important public policy matters, but I will surely not be a candidate for any office in 2020. As a private citizen, I look forward to supporting your re-election as President, and supporting the policies that will continue to move our great country toward even greater heights.
With best wishes and deep gratitude,