Late last night, the Post and Courier (Here) reported that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had accepted an appointment by President Elect Donald Trump to be US Ambassador to the United Nations. This is a smart choice for both the President Elect and for Governor Haley for several reasons.
First, as far as Trump goes, this is a good step towards mending some fences with his critics within the institutional GOP. While there are some Trump hardliners who would love nothing more than the President-Elect waging a scorched-earth war against those who opposed him (Haley was one of those outspoken critics early in the primary), there’s really no reason for Trump to exact vengeance on potential allies. Moreover, rather than making enemies, Trump benefits more from putting GOP stars in his debt. Patronage jobs, like Ambassadorships, come with a sense of loyalty to the President bestowing them. Yes, there would be some catharsis in burning all the bridges, but there’s really no need when you’ve already been elected President.
Cynically, Haley checks a lot of boxes for Trump outside of just an olive branch to GOP insiders. She’s a younger, rising star in the Party. Obviously, one of a number of these rising stars who is also female. It also is beneficial that she is the daughter of immigrants and has an important story to tell about the American experience. She recently resolved the “South Carolina Confederate Flag” issue without much fanfare and was a voice of calm resolve in the wake of the Charleston AME shooting.
Putting Haley at the United Nations and not at the helm of the State Department is an interesting twist. Most would expect a “foreign affairs wonk” to get the spot at the U.N., but Trump clearly sees the usefulness of putting a skilled politician in the position, instead.
Trump will also benefit, indirectly, from putting Haley at the United Nations because Haley’s Lieutenant Governor, Henry McMaster is set to take over the Palmetto State after Haley is confirmed. McMaster, during the primary, was Trump’s first statewide endorsement in South Carolina. McMaster, who lost to Haley in 2010, now gets a jump start on the 2018 gubernatorial race (potentially a reward from Trump for support). South Carolina’s Senator Tim Scott has been touted as potentially eyeing a run, so putting McMaster in an incumbency role may protect one of Trump’s first allies in the South.
As far as Governor Haley goes, taking the job from Trump makes a lot of sense. She’s term-limited in South Carolina and ambitious. If, for example, Tim Scott were to leave his spot in the Senate in 2018 to run for Governor, there’s a strong possibility Haley’s name would be at the top of the list to replace him. This would almost guarantee a run for the White House in 2020 (should Trump only decide to serve a single term), or give her the chance to bide her time until 2024. Importantly, the U.N. Ambassadorship also means Haley will be making numerous international connections and building a foreign policy portfolio that she could transition into a Secretary of State job later in the Trump Administration, or in her political future.
Tapping Haley for Ambassador to the U.N. was a smart move by Trump, and Haley was smart to accept it.