When Nikki Haley’s name was floated as one of the people most likely to have written the NY Times op-ed my immediate reaction was ‘I don’t think so.’ To me, doing something like this would go against Haley’s entire brand which is to be bold and call people out when they are wrong, whether that’s Russia or Iran or some sleazy author hawking a book. It was just hard for me to imagine her resorting to an anonymous attack.
Today, Haley has written a piece for the Washington Post calling out the author of the anonymous op-ed. Haley has a gift for taking things that seem like common sense and spelling them out, point-by-point, in plain language. And that’s what she does here. She doesn’t shout or raise her voice (metaphorically speaking) she just hammers away, explaining why what the author of the op-ed did is “not the American way.”
What this anonymous author is doing is very dangerous. He or she claims to be putting the country first, and that is the right goal. Everyone in government owes a greater loyalty to our country and our Constitution than to any individual officeholder. But a central part of our democracy requires that those who work directly for the president not secretly try to undermine him or his policies. What the author is describing is an extra-constitutional method of addressing policy disputes within the administration. That’s wrong on a fundamental level.
If the author truly is a senior administration official, then he or she has the kind of access to the president I described. If that is the case, this official has ample opportunity to try to persuade the president to change course. If the author is frustrated by an inability to persuade the president, then he or she is free to resign…
Dissent is as American as apple pie. If you don’t like this president, you are free to say so, and people do that quite frequently and loudly. But in the spirit of civility that the anonymous author claims to support, every American should want to see this administration succeed. If it does, it’s a win for the American people.
As a former governor, I find it absolutely chilling to imagine that a high-ranking member of my team would secretly try to thwart my agenda. That is not the American way. It is fundamentally disloyal, not just to the chief executive, but to our country and our values.
To Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, I say: Step up and help the administration do great things for the country. If you disagree with some policies, make your case directly to the president. If that doesn’t work, and you are truly bothered by the direction of the administration, then resign on principle. There is no shame in that. But do not stay in your position and secretly undermine the president and the rest of our team. It is cowardly, it is anti-democratic, and it is a disservice to our country.
Every bit of that seems right, including the sharp elbow aimed at the left, i.e. “every American should want to see this administration succeed.” That line reminds me of the Democrats who made a career out of suggesting Republicans were practically un-American for wanting Obama to be a one-term president. Funny, you don’t hear anything like that from Democrats these days. Now you’re a bad American (and probably a racist) if you don’t want to see Trump frog-marched from the White House.
On the main point of the piece, Haley is exactly right. She’s not the first to say that the writer of the op-ed should resign if they can’t support the president, but her words carry extra weight because she’s in the same position as the (alleged) senior administration official who wrote the op-ed. I also like her focus on the fact that this is not only cowardly but anti-democratic. Frankly, I don’t care if this guy is a coward or the bravest guy in DC. What I care about is someone (maybe several someones) appropriating governmental power they were not given. As Haley says, that’s “extra-constitutional” and very dangerous.