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Nikki Haley, Fire and Fury, Rex Tillerson, and More.

February 4, 2018

Heads up: It’s political!

A skit that was part of the Grammys has drawn notable attention from UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley. The skit involves individuals reading excerpts from Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury.

Haley is upset over what the Washington Post refers to as “a thin rumor put forth by Wolff following the release of his book.” I saw a section of an interview in which Wolff slyly implies that his book includes rumors about a sexual relationship between Haley and Trump. I was disappointed to see him feed the rumor in his interview. I have seen him in several interviews, and having read Fire and Fury in its entirety, I think his demeanor in interviews does the credibility of his book no favors.

I also saw Haley on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. In responding to the rumor, Haley said that she has only been on Air Force One one time, with other members of Trump’s cabinet.

I saw the Tapper interview prior to reading the Haley section in the book, which is not centered on a supposed affair between Haley and Trump. In fact, what I would have liked to hear Haley address is whether she has any knowledge of being considered as a replacement for Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and whether she began cultivating a friendship with Ivanka Trump following her (Haley’s) appointment as UN ambassador and, as Wolff directly states, in an effort to advance her political career.

Below is the entire section from Wolff’s Fire and Fury in which Haley is mentioned (pages 304-306 in the Kindle version). I invite readers to decide whether Haley is wronged by the information included therein and whether Wolff’s book is indeed the “trash” that Haley tweeted in reference to the Grammys skit.

There were really no illusions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. [Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s long-suffering antipathy toward the president was rivaled only by his scorn for the president’s family– “[Trump’s son-in-law, Jared] Kushner,” he pronounced, was “insubordinate.” [Chief Economic Advisor Gary] Cohn’s derisive contempt for Kushner as well as the president was even greater. In return, the president heaped more abuse on Cohn– the former president of Goldman Sachs was now “a complete idiot, dumber than dumb.” In fact, the president had also stopped defending his own family, wondering when they would “take the hint and go home.”

But, of course, this was still politics: those who could overcome shame or disbelief– and, despite a  Trumpian coarseness and absurdity, suck up to him and humor him– might achieve unique political advantage. As it happened, few could.

By October, however, many on the president’s staff took particular notice of one of the few remaining Trump opportunists: Nikki Haley, the UN Ambassador.  Haley– “as ambitious as Lucifer,” in the characterization of one senior member of the staff– had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent. Haley had courted and befriended [Trump’s daughter] Ivanka, and Ivanka had brought her into the family circle, where she had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers. Haley, as had become increasingly evident to the wider foreign policy and national security team, was the family’s pick for secretary of state after Rex Tillerson’s inevitable resignation. (Likewise, in this shuffle, Dina Powell would replace Haley at the UN.)

The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley aboard Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future. Haley, who was much more of a traditional Republican, one with a pronounced moderate streak– a type increasingly known as Jarvanka [“Jared and Ivanka”] Republican– was, evident to many, being mentored in Trumpian ways. The danger here, offered one senior Trumper, “is that she is so much smarter than him.”

What now existed, even before the end of the president’s first year, was an effective power vacuum. The president, in his failure to move beyond daily chaos, had hardly seized the day. But, as sure as politics, someone would.

In that sense, the Trumpian and Republican future was already moving beyond this White House. There was Bannon, working from the outside and trying to take over the Trump movement. There was the Republican leadership in Congress, trying to stymie Trumpism– if not slay it. There was John McCain, doing his best to embarrass it. There was the special counsel’s office, pursuing the president and many of those around him.

The stakes were very clear to Bannon. Haley, quite an un-Trumpian figure, but by far the closest of any of his cabinet members to him, might, with clever political wiles, entice Trump to hand her the Trumpian revolution. Indeed, fearing Haley’s hold on the president, Bannon’s side had– the very morning that Bannon had stood on the steps of the Breitbart town house [following his exit as Trump’s chief strategist] in the unseasonable October weather– gone into overdrive to push the CIA’s Mike Pompeo for State after Tillerson’s departure.

It was all part of the next stage of Trumpism– to protect it from Trump.

So, is Haley biding her time as a deferential Trump supporter? Is Haley offering the “requisite submission” to keep her political career moving onward and upward?

In attempting to answer those questions, one might also consider Haley’s official response to Trump’s State of the Union, as tweeted below:

My thoughts? Reads like “requisite submission” to me. That doesn’t mean for a minute that I read Wolff’s account of Haley and thought, “Haley must be sleeping with Trump.” Given Trump’s established history of brazenly exploiting and demeaning women absent any remorse and accountability, I do wonder how Haley could stand to experience any direct attention from Trump, period. I would feel decidedly uncomfortable dealing directly with Trump, even if others were present.

I would wonder how I could resist using the “trash” term first and foremost on Trump and how, if I didn’t, I could think for a moment that I possessed the leverage to use the term on anyone else, ever.

That is the trick-of-conscience that individuals must make in accepting a Trump administration position: the turning of many blind eyes. But even that does not guarantee security in a Trump appointment– which provides a suitable segue to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On February 01, 2018, ForeignPolicy.com published an article entitled, “There’s No Happy Ending for Rex Tillerson,” (The article’s author, Derek Chollet, “served in the Barack Obama administration for six years in senior positions at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, most recently as the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs,” according to his bio at the end of the article.)

Some excerpts:

A year ago, Rex Tillerson stood in the Oval Office and was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State. Since then, most of the talk has been about when he’ll leave. He got off to the worst start of any Secretary of State in modern history — beginning by taking a job he didn’t really want for a boss he’d never met — enduring a cascade of stories about everything from his anemic management, troubles with the career diplomatic corps, hollowing out of the bureaucracy, and tensions with the White House. Although often considered one of the adults tempering the President’s nastiest instincts, Tillerson’s Washington obituary has been ready for a while.

Yet he’s still around. Instead of quitting (as was widely rumored he would last summer), or being fired and replaced by Mike Pompeo (as reportedly the White House has a plan on the shelf to do), Tillerson is hanging on. …

…Despite the personal admiration foreign diplomats express for Tillerson — he is said to be a diligent, steady interlocutor — few believe his State Department is where one goes to find out what’s really going on or to get big decisions made. …

Tillerson is a proud man, and he has endured more humiliations at the hands of his own administration than any Secretary of State ever has or should. His few remaining defenders have a point when they argue that by working for Trump, he’s in an impossible position. …

So far, Tillerson’s accomplishments are few, and perhaps his greatest one is that he hasn’t been fired or quit.

Chollet sees Pompeo as Tillerson’s replacement– the choice that former Trump chief strategist and noted conservative extremist, Steve Bannon, supports, according to Wolff.

We’ll see,

As for Haley, thus far, she has managed to stay out of Trump’s line of fire. But there was an awkward moment in April 2017:

CNN followed up with this story on the Haley-Trump awkward moment, excerpted below:

(CNN) At a lunch at the White House on Monday with more than a dozen UN ambassadors,President Trump poked some fun at his own UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“Does everybody like Nikki?” Trump asked the assembled ambassadors as Haley sat by his side. Amid laughter Trump added: “Otherwise, she can easily be replaced.”

Cue awkward laughter.

Now, Trump was joking. And everyone in the room — including Haley — understood that. But, that doesn’t mean he was entirely kidding. …

This “joke” about Haley certainly seems to be in keeping with Trump’s long-standing practice of keeping his people guessing.

…We know that Trump doesn’t like when people around him start getting too much positive attention. And, Haley fits that description perfectly. She’s largely won positive reviews in her role, particularly for an impassioned speech she gave at the United Nations following the gassing of civilians by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Haley is, without question, the early star of the Trump administration. Heck, there are already rumors about Haley as a future presidential candidate herself!

That does not sit well with Trump, who doesn’t share the spotlight well or easily.

It makes one wonder how public attention to Haley’s place in Wolff’s book will play out for Haley. It’s a mixed bag: On one hand, Haley has publicly denounced Wolff’s book. On the other hand, she did so by decrying any sexually inappropriate behavior with a man whose personal history is laden with inappropriate sexual behavior. And finally– and perhaps worst of all in Trump’s estimation– Haley has been tagged as using Trump to advance her own political career– and Trump is a man whose tweeted words, if nothing else, have made it clear that 1) winning, 2) not being perceived as being used or taken, and 3) being known as first and best, are everything.

trump.jpeg  Donald Trump

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3 Comments
  1. I regret to see intelligent women accept positions in the Trump administration. Haley is a political creature from a red state, but I just wish sometime that people like her would acknowledge the damage Trump is doing to women and disenfranchised people of all persuasions. I would love to see one of these conservative women “just say no” and refuse a chance to jump on Trump’s hate train.

  2. These days the adage When You Lie Down With Dogs You Rise Up With Fleas keeps circling in my head: Haley may not have perspective, given her power-greedy career choices, to see that she has been tainted with Trump’s sexual abuse simply by validating him. For those who see Trump for what he is, there is no forgiving of Haley no matter her intimacy with Trump or lack thereof.

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