Nikki Haley’s tour as ambassador to the United Nations is going to be studied for years — and it’s not hard to understand why. She’s upstaged just about everyone who ever had anything to do with the place.
Here’s a woman who emerged out of left . . . pardon, right . . . field to land a plum cabinet-level position. She was mocked for having what The New York Times called “zero foreign-policy experience.”
It turns out, though, that the very thing leftist pundits thought would be her glaring weakness was her biggest strength.
As she bows out, her praises are being sung not only by the Times (“Nikki Haley Will Be Missed”) but also by The Post (“one of Trump’s shining stars”) and President Trump himself (“an incredible job”).
What a contrast to the string of ambassadors who fell on their faces in the swamp of Turtle Bay. That’s particularly true of the two envoys under President Barack Obama.
After four years at the United Nations, Susan Rice thought she’d land the coveted spot of secretary of state — but had made enough high-profile missteps along the way to have to pull out of the race.
Samantha Power came in having risen to fame complaining about all the atrocities America tolerated. On her watch, Syria descended into the very “problem from hell” that she had defined in her supposedly landmark book. It’s hard to think of a single problem she solved — or even ameliorated.
So what was Nikki Haley’s secret sauce? My own view is that the Times nailed the question when it complained that she had zero experience in foreign policy.
What a blessing that turned out to be. Nearly all of the “experienced” hands who came before her proceeded to fail.
Their key misconception was the notion that the United Nations is part of the solution to the world’s thorniest problems. Its charter was a vast treaty designed by diplomats to achieve “peace,” “security” and “harmony.”
Haley, by contrast, may have come in without experience — but that meant she also lacked for illusions. What a difference when someone knows they’re in a viper pit — that the UN is itself the problem.
And has the gumption to say so.
This became apparent the instant Haley opened her first press conference. She had just come from a regularly scheduled Security Council meeting devoted to the Middle East.
It was, Haley noted, her first such meeting. She called it “a bit strange,” given that the parley was supposed to be about how to maintain international peace and security.
Yet instead of being dedicated to, say, Hezbollah’s “illegal buildup of rockets in Lebanon” or Iran’s funding of terrorists or even the slaughter in Syria, it was, she said, “focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East.” She confessed she was “new around here,” but she was clearly flabbergasted.
Then the famous words: “I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel.”
“I am here,” she promptly added, “to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”
It’s hard to think of a single moment quite like it.
Not that America has never had a great envoy at the United Nations. Think Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick and J. Russell Wiggins (a liberal war hawk sent to the United Nations by LBJ).
Haley, though, had one thing the other greats didn’t — a velvet glove for her steely personality. Plus, in Trump she had a president cantankerous enough to make her look like Miss Congeniality.
Some speculate that Haley felt big-footed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. There’s also speculation Trump could make Haley his running mate in 2020.
That could lead to her emerging in a position that is way underestimated — in a way, the president’s envoy to Congress (with powers of its own as president of the Senate).
Capitol Hill, of course, makes the United Nations look like a playpen for angels. Yet Nikki Haley might be able to navigate it where others failed. After all, as a vice president, she has zero experience.