The Cable

Trump’s U.N. Pick in ‘Alternative Universe’ From Boss

From the importance of alliances to maintaining sanctions on Russia, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley shows daylight with Trump.


South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s rather odd pick for U.N. ambassador, admitted to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee during her Wednesday confirmation hearing that she does not, in fact, have any foreign affairs experience. But, she reassured them, “Diplomacy itself is not new to me.”

And Haley aptly covered a wide range of issues in the hours that followed, but her testimony mostly served to underscore the stark contrast between how she views the world and how Trump does. Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Con.), said Haley’s hearing seemed to occur “in an alternative universe,” one in which she had agreed to serve in the administration of someone other than Trump.

Across the board, much like other Trump cabinet nominees, Haley offered lawmakers a centrist, straightforward view of the world and America’s place in it that sounds almost entirely unlike her new boss’s.

She spoke repeatedly of the importance of alliances, especially NATO, stressed the need to work with China, and said sanctions on Russia should not be lifted for no reason.

Though Trump keeps calling NATO “obsolete,” Haley said that the United States should work to strengthen it. She stressed the importance of working with China to defuse the nuclear threat from North Korea — where, indeed, progress has been made at the U.N. — while Trump and his minions vow to start a trade war with Beijing.

She said sanctions against Russia should not be lifted unless the United States sees that progress has been made in adhering to the terms set by the Minsk talks. On sanctions, Trump recently said, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”

And she really stressed the daylight between her and Trump (and prospective Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) by saying she is prepared to speak up against extra-judicial killings by the government of the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte claims that Trump spoke warmly of his brutal war on drugs, and Tillerson seemed never to have heard of the thousands of executions in his own hearing.

She agreed with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) that the money put forth by the United Nations toward maternal care is critical (though she reiterated that she is strongly opposed to abortion). Experts are concerned that Trump will cut funding for humanitarian aid.

Lawmakers asked her how she might navigate conflicts between her own efforts and Trump’s future tweets, which often reshape important and long-held policies in the blink of an eye. “I look forward to communicating to him how I feel,” she said.

Still, there’s at least two points on which Trump and Haley agree. She would not commit to supporting the Paris Climate agreement, a breakthrough environmental accord that Trump has bashed repeatedly.

And she was adamant in her support of Trump on one point in particular: Israel. Haley agrees with Trump that the U.S. embassy should be moved to Jerusalem. And several times during the hearing she spoke out against U.N. Resolution 2334, which censured Israel for expanding settlements. She said the lack of a U.S. veto to the resolution — which passed 14-0 — was “a kick in the gut.”

She suggested that the United States could threaten to cut funding over such behavior — though later clarified that she would rather ask Congress to cut funding if, over a period of time, the United Nations does not change its behavior. “The funding needs to be used as a force,” she said.

And so at least one person is enthusiastic over her nomination. Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who issued a statement welcoming this “true friend of Israel” from the United States to the United Nations.

Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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