Nikki Haley had a good take on Donald Trump when he was running for president. In a clear rebuke to the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee populism that Trump was stoking, the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India declared early in the 2016 campaign season that “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
She told NBC that “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.” As the Republican governor of the critical primary state of South Carolina, she backed Marco Rubio’s comically inept bid to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican nominee. When Rubio’s campaign collapsed, she went to the bottom of the barrel and backed Ted Cruz. When Trump ripped her on Twitter—“The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”—Haley responded: “Bless your heart.” As the general election approached, the governor admitted that, while she would vote for fellow-Republican Trump rather than Democrat Hillary Clinton, “I’m not a fan of either one.”
When the votes were counted and Trump emerged as a surprise winner, however, Haley quickly warmed to Trump and Trumpism. A famously ambitious politician—Haley’s 2016 campaign-season sniping at Trump was widely seen as part of a plan to position her as contender for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination—she wanted to be part of the new Republican administration. Even if it was led by the guy she had so recently decried as angry, irresponsible, and divisive.
Haley was angling for a cabinet post, or perhaps a place even closer to power as a member of the National Security Council. But she settled for a gig as the president’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Because of their tumultuous past, there was speculation that Haley would serve as a dissident within the Trump administration—an “adult in the room” who might break with the president on at least a few issues of consequence, or perhaps influence the administration to consider more thoughtful approaches to international affairs.
Didn’t happen. As Haley prepares to exit her UN post, she does so as a full-on Trumpkin who says that promoting the president’s agenda on the global stage has been “the honor of a lifetime.” Trump is equally lavish in his praise of Haley’s ambassadorship, saying that “she made it a more glamorous position, she’s made it, more importantly, a more important position.” But Vice President Mike Pence has summed things up best by hailing Haley for “faithfully advancing President Trump’s America First agenda.”