Nikki Haley, the leading Indian-American Republican often described as the ‘rising star’ of the GOP and occasionally as a potential presidential candidate, has resigned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, drawing praise from both sides of the aisle for her work at the UN and stateside.
At a press conference held to announce her decision to leave end of the year, President Trump said Haley had done an “incredible job” and is a “fantastic person.” He said Haley had told him six months ago that she needed a “little break.”
“She did a fantastic job … solved a lot of problems,” Trump said. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thinks the world of Nikki Haley,” the President added.
“One thing on which she took leadership was on human rights in all countries,” said Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. In an interview with News India Times, Krishnamoorthi said, “She was a voice of American leadersihp in that area and unfortunately she was a rare voice on that issue.”
Talking heads expressed surprise at the sudden departure of the UN Ambassador who has led the administration’s sometimes unpopular policies adopted by the President Trump, including withdrawing from major international agreements on climate change and Iran, as well as positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, withdrawing from the UN human rights body, and also on the issue of U.S. funding for the international agency.
During her tenure Haley has bucked the president when it came to domestic policy issues. especially on the right of women to air their grievances on sexual assault. She was also openly critical of him during the presidential campaign.
“Nikki Haley was a candid, forthright ambassador to the UN. With her years as governor, she brought a lot to the table as a UN Ambassador. It’s very understandable that the Desi community would be proud of her,” said Krishnamoorthi, adding, “What I really liked about her was she attended different community events and is proud of her Indian heritage.”
Speculation is rife on whether the hearings involving the latest Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, where several women accused him of sexual assault, played a part in her decision. President Trump, in the final days of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, lashed out at the prime accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, mocking her testimony on Capitol Hill.
Haley may be trying to distance herself from those elements as she has done before. Even during President Trump’s election campaign, Haley had not shied from criticizing him. Reasons being cited for her decision range anywhere from the need to raise more money to send her two children to university to President Trump’s appointment of former UN Ambassador and foreign policy hawk John Bolton as National Security Advisor. Some commentators also speculated Trump may choose to replace her with one of his greatest new found friends in South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and having Haley fill his spot on the U.S. Senate for the remaining term.
But Haley said she was leaving because “I’m a believer in time limits. It’s important for government officials to step aside,” and that she has had “8 intense years,” which included her time as Governor of South Carolina and at the UN.
Haley also discarded speculation about running for President in the near future. “No, I’m not running for 2020. I will be supporting this candidate,” Haley said, extending her hand to pat the President on the shoulder.
It is not unusual for top administration officials to leave office two to three years into an administration, not least because of the burnout from the intense work schedule.
The Indian-American Impact Project, a non-profit started mainly by Democratic politicos in January, praised Haley. “As the highest ranking Indian American in the Trump Administration, the first Indian American to hold the position of UN Ambassador, and the first Indian American woman elected as governor, Nikki Haley has served our country with distinction,” a statement from Impact said. “We are proud of her service and leadership, and grateful that she has inspired countless Indian Americans aspiring to careers in public service and foreign service. We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” Impact added.
Haley had high praise for the role members of the Trump family had played behind the scenes. First Lady Melania Trump, had been “very, very kind to me.” She also praised Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the Israel-Palestine issue, and his daughter Ivanka Trump.
“I can’t say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka. Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands. I mean, to re-do the NAFTA deal the way he did. What I’ve done working with him on the Middle East Peace Plan — it is so unbelievably well done,” Haley gushed during the White House press conference. “And Ivanka has been just a great friend. And they do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about because we’re a better country because they’re in this administration,” Haley added.
Haley was the first Indian-American woman and the youngest governor of the state in the country, when she took office in South Carolina. A dynamic governor who was attacked even by some of her own party members, Haley got national attention when she decided to remove the Confederate flag from State House grounds following the mass killing at an African-American church in her state.
“It was a blessing to wear the body armor and step into the United Nations,” Haley said at the press briefing.
Trump indicated Haley may come back in a different capacity to his administration in the future. “You can have your pick,” Trump said. At the UN, Trump said, “She got to know the players – China, Russia, India – she knows the people … and more importantly, they respect her.”
Haley called the UN appointment an “honor of a lifetime” and asserted, “Now the U.S. is respected,” adding that while some countries “may not like us, but they respect us.” She took credit for cutting the UN budget by more than a billion dollars, and bringing to the fore the “anti-Israel” bias.