In President Trump's administration one never seems to know where the next drama flare-up will be. The ink spilled over palace intrigue, insults, back-stabbing, and leaks seem endless. Yet in a chaotic week, which tested the president's mettle on foreign and domestic policy alike, one fundamental pillar of the administration stood firm: Nikki Haley.
Last week, the rock-ribbed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations lit up her counterparts for defending the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons and turned the often staid, tepid chamber of the United Nations into a rhetorical battleground fit for, well, a Trump ambassador.
Social media and cable news were abuzz with Haley's firebrand performance against her seasoned counterparts under the hottest of hot spotlights. However, with the political world turned upside down last week, it may have been hard to follow all of the developments. For those who know Haley's story, her performance was in character. Here is a step-by-step highlight reel on how Haley became the most savage diplomat on the planet.
Haley, born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, is a child of first-generation immigrants from India.
Haley was born in South Carolina and experienced local bigotry and racism growing up. According to the New York Times:
As a girl, her parents — the first Indian immigrants this small, working-class town had ever seen — entered Nikki and her sister in the Little Miss Bamberg pageant. The judges of the contest, one that crowned one black queen and one white queen, were so flummoxed that they simply disqualified Nikki and her sister, Simran — but not before Nikki, about 5, sang “This Land Is Your Land.”
Her father wears a turban and, though male Sikhs are not supposed to cut their hair, her brothers’ was trimmed after teasing at school grew vicious. “It’s survival mode,” she said. “You learn to try and show people how you’re more alike than you are different.”
In spite of the painful cultural differences, Haley persisted, graduating from Clemson University and becoming a successful businesswoman, then deciding to run for office.
Haley broke race barriers in her state and the country.
Nikki Haley won a South Carolina state House seat in 2004 and the state governorship in 2010. These wins gave her the status as the first Indian-American to hold public office in the state and the first female Indian-American governor in American history.
She lowered the Confederate flag on South Carolina state property, once and for all.
Haley ended the practice of flying the Confederate flag on state grounds in South Carolina partially in response to the horrific, race-inspired shooting by Dylan Roof. The decision was controversial but Haley told CNN:
“I think the more important part is it should have never been there. These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”
Haley went on to say:
“There is a place for that flag. It's not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.”
In the 2016 South Carolina primary, Gov. Haley did not endorse Trump.
Not at all.
But Trump chose Haley to serve as U.S. Ambassador anyway, saying “things will be different” under her leadership.
The U.S. Senate agreed.
Haley's first day at the U.N., she laid down the law, literally telling people she was “taking names.”
"It's a thrill to be here at the U.N. I will tell you that we have hit the ground running. There is a new U.S. U.N. You are going to see a change in the way we do business. It's no longer about working harder, it's about working smarter.
Our goal is to show value at the U.N. The way we'll show value is to show our strength [...] have the backs of our allies, and make sure that our allies have our backs, as well. For those that don't have our back, we're taking names."
In short order, Haley cut a scorched-earth path through the U.N.
Here are her comments on various hot button issues, via a fantastic round up by IJR contributor Christopher Hansford:
Haley on Russia's Ukraine occupation:
“The dire situation in Eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions…the United States stands with the people of Ukraine who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military intervention.”
Haley on the U.N. vs. Israel:
“For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel….Going forward the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”
Haley on North Korea:
Haley on Iran:
The U.S. “will not hesitate to stand against the forces of terrorism, and that includes standing against the states that sponsor it, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Haley savages defenders of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after horrific chemical attack.
After news of the attack reached the U.N., Haley spoke to the Security Council. According to IJR's Jason Howerton's account of her speech that day:
Haley gave a horrific and vivid account of the reported chemical attack, holding up photos of child victims for the U.N. Security Council to see.
“Men, women, the elderly, and children gasping for their very last breath,” she said. “And as first responders, doctors, and nurses rushed to help the victims, a second round of bombs rained down. They died in the same slow, horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save.”
She then stared down the Russian ambassador and said: “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?”
Here's the face the Russian ambassador saw staring daggers at him
After the speech, Haley told the Women in the World Summit that she received a text from a fellow member of the Security Council that read:
“Thank you for what you said today. It's so good to see America lead.”
Haley won't back down after Trump bombs Syria.
After the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria on April 6 to destroy airfields allegedly used by Assad to launch the chemical attack, Haley faced a volatile U.N. Security Council. Russia called the U.S. actions a “flagrant violation” of international law.
Haley did not mince words toward Assad or his ally Russia in her response:
"It was time to say enough. But not only say it – it was time to act.
Bashar al-Assad must never use chemical weapons again. Ever.
Now, while the Syrian regime is responsible for the chemical weapons attack, it is not the only guilty party. The Iranian government bears a heavy responsibility. It has propped up and shielded Syria’s brutal dictator for years. Iran continues to play a role in the bloodshed in Syria. The Russian government also bears considerable responsibility. Every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him."
Haley continued to point the blame for the deadly chemical attack squarely at the Russians:
"Russia is supposed to be a guarantor of the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. Think about that. Russia is supposed to have removed all the chemical weapons from Syria, but obviously that has not happened, as innocent Syrians continue to be murdered in chemical attacks.
Let’s think about the possible reasons for Russia’s failure. It could be that Russia is knowingly allowing chemical weapons to remain in Syria. It could be that Russia has been incompetent in its efforts to remove the chemical weapons. Or, it could be that the Assad regime is playing the Russians for fools, telling them that there are no chemical weapons, all the while stockpiling them on their bases."
After receiving requests by other countries for a closed-door meeting to discuss America's unilateral military action, Haley responded with perhaps the most vicious press release in UN history:
On the Sunday shows, Haley continued her brutal assessment of Assad, calling for regime change.
“Well, regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.”
This is a change of course for the Trump administration.
Meet Nikki Haley, America's Most Savage Diplomat.
Editor's Note: This post was updated after publishing.