President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he will nominate South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be his ambassador to the United Nations. Her nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate. In his statement announcing his decision, Trump called Haley “a proven deal-maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals.” He also said the governor has a “track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation.”
Haley, 44, a rising star in the Republican Party and a daughter of Indian immigrants, has led South Carolina since 2011. She is Trump’s first female appointee to a Cabinet-level post, and she would be taking on a position that requires intense diplomatic and navigational skills in an often-frustrating international bureaucracy.
The first Indian American chosen to have a Cabinet-level position in any US administration, Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, has already carved out a legacy for herself, serving as her home state’s first female and first minority governor.
Once considered a potential vice president pick, Trump’s tapping Haley further rises the profile of a rising star in a party whose leaders are increasingly attempting to attract more minorities and women.
Haley was also among those being considered by Trump for secretary of state. Her pick leaves former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and a handful of others among those still in the running for the top diplomat position.
While on the stump during the campaign, Haley vocally disavowed Trump, appearing publicly on behalf of Marco Rubio and endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz after the Florida senator dropped out of the GOP primary race.
Relations between Haley and Trump have been far from cordial, with both vaulting verbal jabs at each other during the race for the White House.
Rep. Sean Duffy said Wednesday that the fact that Trump is even considering Haley after her criticism of the President-elect speaks highly of him. “I think it’s quite remarkable that he’s looking for talent and not trying to settle old scores,” the Wisconsin Republican told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”
Trump said in January that Haley’s stance on immigration was “weak” after the South Carolina governor welcomed properly vetted legal immigrants into her state, regardless of race or religion. He also tweeted in March, “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”
Haley, who once suggested that Trump was among “the angriest voices,” was jubilant by his election. “I’m just giddy, and if you talk to any of the governors here, we are so excited at the possibility and the opportunities that are going to be here,” she said after his win.
“The idea that now we can start to really govern — I have never known what it’s like to have a Republican president. I can tell you that the last five years, Washington has been the hardest part of my job,” Haley said. “This is a new day.”
The governor has long been a rising star in the GOP and was endorsed by former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin during her gubernatorial run. But Haley came to national — and international — attention following the Charleston church shooting in 2015, where a self-proclaimed white supremacist opened fire on a Bible study group at a predominantly black church, killing nine people. Haley became a highly visible presence in the days following the tragedy — particularly in the highly contentious battle to remove the Confederate Flag from the state Capitol grounds.
“These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of,” she said at the time. “What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”
She was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, a small town with about 3,600 people, to Indian American parents. Growing up Haley helped with bookkeeping at the family clothing store before earning a degree in accounting from Clemson. She went on to marry Michael Haley, a National Guardsman who has served in Afghanistan, before having two children.
In the years following the economic downturn, Haley used her business background to brand herself as an advocate for bringing more jobs to a state that has seen many factories leave.
Despite her accomplishments, Haley is not known for having significant foreign policy experience — something Duffy said was not a major concern. “She’s a smart woman,” he told CNN. “I don’t think you need this great history of diplomatic experience to go in the UN and be successful.”
“I think what you want to do is find people who will share your worldview especially when they go and represent you from the administration to the UN or any other post,” Duffy added.
“She very, very successfully branded herself as the jobs governor,” Scott Huffmon, a political science professor at Winthrop University, has said previously. “But she kept her conservative credentials by railing against Obamacare and toeing the line on things that conservatives care about. She has been able to keep a foot in both worlds for a while. And now she is breaking away from being simply a Southern to becoming a national Republican.”
At the United Nations, Haley will have to deal with the heavy responsibilities involved in America’s role as a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council, a role that has in recent years put the United States in frequent opposition to Russia, which holds similar rank.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has repeatedly clashed with Russia over how to deal with the conflict in Syria, with the Russians moving to block punitive actions against Syrian President Bashar Assad. But Trump has indicated he wants to find common ground with Russia on Syria and other fronts, and it’s possible such clashes may subside during his presidency.
Trump also has signaled he wants to scale back America’s overall role in the United Nations, an echo of anti-U.N. sentiment expressed by many Republicans during the George W. Bush presidency. U.N. officials are bracing for disputes with the United States over America’s dues to the world body. They also worry that the incoming Trump administration will move to undermine the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and other major global agreements in which the U.N. plays a role.
Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and close follower of the United Nations, said there will be a lot of relief around the institution that they’re not getting a person from the Bush-vs.-the-U.N. era. Diplomats feared the return of acolytes of former U.S. ambassador John Bolton, and there was speculation that Richard Grenell, the U.S. spokesman at the U.N. during that period, would be returning to Turtle Bay.
“Diplomats were expecting Trump to send an angry white man to the U.N. The mere fact that Haley is not an angry white man is good in terms of political optics,” Gowan said.
Nikki Haley has accepted Donald Trump’s offer to be his ambassador to the United Nations. In a statement Wednesdaymorning, Haley said “I always expected to finish the remaining two years of my second term as governor,” but added she was “moved to accept this new assignment” out of a “sense of duty.”
“When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed,” Haley said, adding that she “remain as governor until the U.S. Senate acts affirmatively on my nomination.”
“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally,”
Haley said in a statement accepting the nomination.
“I am honored that the president-elect has asked me to join his team.”