Lotta buzz about this on social media right now, which is understandable. It’s interesting in a way that only things that make no sense can be.
Sources tell me Donald Trump is now considering Governor Nikki Haley for Secretary of State.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) November 16, 2016
She has no background in diplomacy. She was a South Carolina state rep before becoming governor in 2010. Floating her for State is even more random than floating Rudy Giuliani, which itself is pretty random. Even stranger, Haley was an outspoken Trump critic for most of the past 18 months. She scolded him last year for his immigration rhetoric. She went after him (although not by name) in her SOTU rebuttal, when she warned about the “angriest voices” leading America astray. She endorsed Marco Rubio before the South Carolina primary, then switched to Ted Cruz once Rubio was out in hopes of stopping Trump. It reached this point in March:
The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2016
@realDonaldTrump, Bless your heart.
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) March 1, 2016
Haley eventually came crawling to Trump like Rubio and Cruz did, once he was the only game in town, and declared herself “giddy” over his victory last week, but that’s a lot of history to ignore. And don’t forget that some of Trump’s alt-right fans have a special dislike for Haley, not only because she’s a prominent minority leader in the party but because she led the effort to have the Confederate battle flag removed from the statehouse grounds after the Charleston shooting.
Which, actually, probably explains why her name is being floated now. Leaking Haley’s name to the press via Scarborough does three things for Trump. It shows that he’s not vindictive, that he’s willing to consider longtime critics for important positions in the name of having competent people working for him. It adds some diversity to the list of cabinet nominees he’s considering, which was light on women and minorities when BuzzFeed got hold of it last week. (Kelly Ayotte’s name was probably floated for Defense secretary for the same reason.) And, most importantly, it undercuts the attacks on Steve Bannon this week, which have begun to come from bigger and bigger Democratic names, that his associations with the alt-right make him unfit for government service. How alt-right can Bannon really be, Team Trump will say, if we’re looking at an Indian-American woman who famously retired the Confederate flag as our chief diplomat? It’s a PR thing. Giuliani or Bolton will end up as SoS and Trump will say of Haley, “She’s very talented. We looked at her very seriously.” And that’ll be that.
Does the mysterious leak about Ted Cruz being considered for Attorney General fall into this same category, by the way? If Trump wants to show he’s magnanimous towards critics while buying some conservative cred on the cheap, there’s no cheaper way than floating Cruz’s name for something. Although, if you believe one of the people who’s advising him on judicial picks, that something won’t be the Supreme Court:
Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, told reporters after meeting with Mr. Trump that the candidates for Supreme Court were on the list the campaign put out in September.
“My understanding from our discussion today is that is still the list and that he is committed to evaluating those people very carefully, honing that list and then ultimately making a nomination upon his assumption of the office,” said Mr. Leonard…
Mr. Cruz, an accomplished lawyer and stalwart conservative, had been mentioned as a possible candidate for a nomination to the high court. But the Texas senator was not on Mr. Trump’s list of 21 conservative jurists and lawyers.
Mike Lee was on the list. If Trump is looking for a way to make friends with some of the skeptics on his right, there’d be no faster way than turning Senator Lee into Justice Lee. Although, given Lee’s own resistance to Trump all year — he never endorsed him, even after Cruz caved — it’s a lot to ask of the president-elect to swallow that much pride. The other candidates on his list would be solid picks too.
As for the prospect of AG Cruz, as a disappointed Cruzer I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I’m sure he’d do a fine job. And AG is probably the most independent position in the executive branch, so Trump’s influence would be felt somewhat less than it would in other cabinet slots — in theory. In practice, it’s hard to imagine President Trump respecting the independence of the Justice Department if it took a direction he didn’t care for. And Cruz, inevitably, would be coopted to some extent by Trump’s agenda: If you’re a conservative who’s eager to have the party’s conservative stars keep Trump honest when he indulges his worst excesses, having Ted Cruz as a paid employee of the Trump administration seems … not so ideal. Cruz would also hold his job at the pleasure of president; he could resign his Senate seat, be named AG, and end up out of government a year from now when Trump decides to replace him. There’s a debate to be had, especially among Cruz crew alums, about what the most optimal use of Cruz’s talents is in the Trump era. Should he be independent and part of the opposition to big-government initiatives in the Senate, or should he be in a position of influence in the administration at the cost of lending his conservative cred to a program that might not be so conservative? (A Court appointment would solve that dilemma since Cruz on the bench would be independent of Trump.) Tough call.