The Corner

Politics & Policy

Nikki Haley Does the Impossible: Leave the Trump Team on Good Terms

How often do we see a member of President Trump’s team get such effusive praise from the president on her way out the door?

The announcement that Nikki Haley would leave her post as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of year was a shock, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. Haley’s done sterling work, merging Trump pugnaciousness, the decorum requirements of international diplomacy, and southern charm on the world stage.

Her departure set off a lot of breathless, and fairly inane, speculation, including claims that Haley was upset with the administration’s defense of Kavanaugh (when has Haley ever not spoken her mind?) or that there’s some sort of terrible scandal about to be revealed (how would Haley know about, say, the Robert Mueller investigation?). Occam’s Razor would suggest that the stated reasons are the true ones — that she has two college-age kids, the job is exhausting, and she’s accomplished a lot of what she set out to do — enacting North Korean sanctions, standing up for Israel, reforming the United Nations budget and eliminating waste, and as she put it, speaking “out resolutely against dictatorships in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and yes, Russia.” She may end up being the only person in the Trump cabinet who will leave better positioned for any future ambitions than when she entered. (Maybe you could argue Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo.)

Some might ask why Haley would announce this decision now, instead of after the midterms. We don’t know how the midterms will go for Republicans, but if they go badly and she announced her departure afterwards, her decision would be perceived as abandoning a sinking ship. Doing it now ensures it’s seen as independent from the midterm election results. (And the latest polling suggests the midterms may not be so gloomy for the GOP after all.)

For Haley, departing now is all upside, no downside. She’s done an excellent job, is arguably the most popular politician in America, and if something does go terribly wrong for this administration in the coming months or years, she’ll escape any blame. Good timing.

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