It’s been a bad week for Aaron Blake at the Washington Post’s regular feature, The Fix. First, he grew so despondent over the news that Brett Kavanaugh had been seated as a new SCOTUS justice that he suggested Democrats should pack the court. And now he’s struggling with the surprise announcement that Nikki Haley is resigning as UN Ambassador at the end of the year. It’s not that Blake is so enamored of Haley’s service to her country that he’s going to miss her. It’s how the news of her departure broke.
To be sure, Blake isn’t alone among the media chorus in feeling this way. While the news was breaking I saw cable talking heads across the board sputtering at being caught off guard. But over at The Fix, that wasn’t good enough. In Blake’s view, the explanation that this was just a decision made between the President and his ambassador in private wasn’t good enough. He describes the scenario by saying that something doesn’t smell right. (Emphasis added)
The two were obviously eager to downplay the idea that this was hasty. But if it wasn’t, that might make the timing even odder.
If this was long planned, it was apparently one of the best-kept secrets in a very leaky White House. The news reportedly blindsided those in the foreign policy establishment, the White House and even members of Haley’s staff.
Haley’s exit is due at the end of the year, which means she’ll be around for as many as 12 more weeks. But she and the White House chose to announce this four weeks before the 2018 election? The White House is effectively announcing the exit of its most popular Cabinet official — the extremely rare one who has strong approval among Republicans and Democrats — just before voters vote. Apart from perhaps Defense Secretary James Mattis, nobody is seen as being such a steadying influence in an unwieldy administration as Haley is.
The Fix is scrambling to come up with some sort of bombshell to explain how and why this happened when it did. In addition to the above speculation that it was timed with the date of the midterms in mind, Blake goes on to link to an article suggesting Haley was going to be investigated for her use of private travel on government time. But that news had only come out the day before. In a later update, The Fix was forced to note that Haley’s resignation letter was dated October 3rd, a full week before her announcement and the same day that she had been seen visiting and talking to Trump.
Here’s the real problem. The Washington Post (along with the rest of the MSM) is simply furious that the Trump administration could release a significant announcement without somebody leaking it to them first. They’ve gotten used to disloyal leakers giving them time to put the most negative spin possible on breaking news and begin dredging up rumors from “anonymous sources close to the White House” to make it sound as sinister as possible. Since they got caught with their pants down, the WaPo is now scurrying to fill in the blanks after the fact and come up with a negative narrative in the closing weeks before the midterms.
But keep in mind that Trump and Haley have been pretty close. And the White House has been sick and tired of all the Deep State leaking, seeking out those who value media attention more than their jobs. So since we’re all tossing out theories on the subject, here’s one that passes the smell test. Nikki Halley decided she was going to do two years and depart, but she let Trump know in private and agreed that they wouldn’t tell anyone. That way she got to control the story herself and Trump got to unveil something that took his many detractors in the press totally off guard.
Of course, a story like that runs counter to the usual impression that the press corps is always five steps ahead of the White House and they know what Trump’s having for breakfast before he orders it. Be that as it may, I imagine the President has a pretty big smile on his face over this one and you should expect to see more breaking news in the coming weeks which the White House manages to keep a lid on until they’re ready to reveal it.