Trump Picks Nikki Haley as Ambassador to United Nations

Nikki Haley with Marco Rubio in South Carolina following primary elections in that state.
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Win McNamee/Getty

On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced Nikki Haley as his choice for U.S Ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, Governor of South Carolina, is the first female appointed to a cabinet-level position in the Trump administration. With little foreign policy experience and a tenuous history with the president-elect, the choice has left many confused.

Nikki Haley, 44, became the first woman and the first minority to lead the state of South Carolina. A daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley helped with bookkeeping at the family clothing store in South Carolina before earning an accounting degree. She later served three terms in the state House of Representatives and won gubernatorial elections in 2010 and 2014. Haley drew national praise for her response to a mass shooting at an African-American church in Charleston in 2015 when she called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol. Trump later dismissed Haley by tweeting: “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!"

When announcing his choice, Trump called Haley a “proven deal-maker” with a “track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation.” His words of praise are a far cry from what he has previously said about the governor. Throughout the recent Republican primaries, Haley was a very vocal opponent of Trump, condemning him for not vehemently speaking out against white supremacy. Haley has called Trump “the loudest voice in the room” and “everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.” In response to her criticisms, Trump called Haley “weak on immigration,” leading many of his supporters to taunt Haley on Twitter about her Indian heritage.

After backing Marco Rubio during the primary campaign, Haley unenthusiastically endorsed Trump after he won the primary. Haley said last month that she would vote for Trump although she was “not a fan.” Despite her lukewarm feelings towards the president-elect, Haley has accepted his offer, citing a “sense of duty” to help the United States face “enormous challenges here at home and internationally.”

Very little is known about Haley’s views on foreign affairs and the United Nations, specifically her position on such critical and contentious issues as the wars in Syria and South Sudan, and the global refugee crisis. Therefore it is difficult to know how Haley will approach the job. Haley certainly lacks obvious foreign policy experience. While she has taken at least eight trips to other countries while in office, these trips have mainly been to attend trade shows or economic development meetings.

Previous U.N ambassadors were already established foreign policy experts. Current ambassador Samantha Power is a former war correspondent and Pulitzer-Prize winning author. President Obama’s first pick, Susan Rice, spent her entire career working in foreign policy. John Negroponte, appointed by George W. Bush, served in U.S Foreign Service for almost 40 years. Thomas Pickering, under George H. W. Bush was a lifelong diplomat.

In the role of ambassador, Haley will inform the president of UN activities and make recommendations for state actions. At the United Nations, Haley will have heavy responsibilities as the United States is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council.

Haley is definitely not an obvious pick for the role of ambassador. However, for a party looking to attract more minorities and women and for a an administration criticized for lack of diversity, she makes sense.

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