January 20, 2019

Nikki Haley Is Running for Something

“Nikki Haley has accomplished something no other Republican has managed in the Trump era: She’s departing a high-profile job in better shape politically than when she came in. The 46-year-old U.N. ambassador leaves her post on December 31 with a reputation enhanced and a star on the rise. She has the second-highest approval rating among Trump Cabinet members, behind only James Mattis. Trump Republicans respect her. Anti-Trump Republicans see a savior in her. The mainstream media treat her as an object of fascination rather than an enemy.

In her time in the Cabinet, she’s had no scandals—unlike many other departed Trump officials—nor any public spats with her boss. She’s no lame-duck member of Congress trudging back home after humiliating losses to Trump’s Grand New Party. Nor is she any sort of Trump sycophant, having publicly disagreed with him at times. She asserted in a September op-ed in the Washington Post that when their opinions differ, “I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person.” Haley has carved out an independent profile while remaining loyal to the president.

The political world is seemingly her oyster, which is why it’s hard to believe her answer about what’s next. “I don’t know,” she tells me. “I have some ideas.” A book, maybe, she says, or a job at a think tank. She’s talking with the casualness of a college kid considering how to spend the summer break. But she quickly resumes the political position. “I think that I will always have a voice when it comes to defending America and when it comes to fighting for our values or fighting for human rights,” she says. “It’s such a part of me, so I will look for an opportunity to do that.””

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