Nikki Haley begins her presidential audition Trumpeting a book and an award

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley visits "Fox & Friends" at Fox News Channel Studios on November 12, 2019 in New York City. (Getty Images).

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Governor and erstwhile U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has for all intents and purposes set her 2024 presidential campaign in motion with the release of her controversial book, ‘With All Due Respect,’ about the behind-the-scenes goings-on during her tenure in the Trump administration. The book is being seen as her way of consolidating the support she enjoys among the neoconservatives, who are apparently all-in for her as their choice for President.

In a well-thought out, strategic attempt to raise her profile even more nationally, coinciding with the release of her book on Nov. 12, Haley has engaged in a flurry of television interviews with networks and cable news anchors. She sought to endear herself further to Trump’s base by strongly defending her rationale for remaining loyal to the President against the apparent machinations of President Trump’s most senior aides — former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and erstwhile White House chief of staff John F. Kelly — who allegedly sought to recruit her to work around and subvert Trump. It is a clear attempt to make sure Trump’s cult-like support base will be in her corner in 2024 when she’s most likely to go toe to toe with Vice President Mike Pence in the GOP primary.

When Haley resigned in December last year, unlike the departure of other administration officials, either by firing or of their own volition, Haley’s departure was announced by Trump at an Oval Office meeting with them seated side by side with the White House press pool invited for what could only be described as a veritable love-fest between the President and Haley, where each lavished effusive praise on each other.

Both in her book and in all of her media interviews, Haley also burnished her foreign and security policy credentials, particularly her strong pro-Israel stand, claiming that she was the point person when it came to moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and tearing up the Iran nuclear deal — a major priority for the Israeli government and a campaign promise made by Trump — even as Tillerson and Kelly sought to undermine these efforts.

All of this, including her taking the lead in cutting U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority for its “hostile rhetoric and even more hostile actions toward the United States,” as she states in her book, could only enhance her support and love she enjoys from the powerful AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and major GOP donors like billionaire Sheldon Adelson, whose support was always conditioned on the moving of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and is said to be an avid fan of Haley.

Although, Haley continues to decline to predict her political future or her White House ambitions, she told The Washington Post, “I’m not even thinking that way. I’m thinking more of, we need to do all we can to get the president reelected. And then from there, deciding how I will use the power of my voice,” Haley said, adding, “I know I’m too young to stop fighting, I know that. And I know that I need and want to be involved in some way that’s helpful.”

But what was most revealing was her circumspection—nay reluctance—when asked by NBC and MSNBC’s anchor Craig Melvin—who also hails from South Carolina and has known Haley for several years-- if Pence would “make a good president?”

In hardly a ringing endorsement, she said, “There’s going to be a lot of people on that stage when he runs for president,” and added, “I think Mike Pence makes a good Vice President now. I think Mike Pence was a good Governor and I think Mike Pence can be good at anything he decides to do.”

When speculation was rife, when she resigned her cabinet UN post, one major fund-raiser and friend from the time she first ran for what was then considered a quixotic campaign to become the first female governor of the history of South Carolina, told India Abroad, “Nikki is ambitious, and not just ambitious but ambitious in a tactical, strategic and so very savvy manner, and just see how she virtually choreographed her entire departure announcement in the White House.”

The source said that endearing herself to Trump and by speaking so lovingly about his family, she was artfully positioning herself to win the support of his base, including the all-important evangelicals, while she also was a favorite of the likes of major Republican donors like Adelson, whom she has regularly been meeting with and keeping them in the loop, while keeping herself “totally relevant and as a potential and viable candidate in 2024.”

  

In her book, Haley wrote, “I realize there are many who will think this book is motivation for something in the future. I can’t help that. I can only say that facts are remembered and emotions fade, but it is the emotions that dictate the lessons we learn. I wanted all of you to know what I felt as I went through these times in my life.”

“I don’t know what’s next, but I’ve learned some things along the way that will help me find it,” she said.

But even before the release of her book, the neoconservatives, indicating who their unambiguous choice for president in 2024 was, manifested by its flagship think tank’s prestigious award to Haley, which some analysts said was the unofficial endorsement and the early kick-off of her presidential campaign.

On October 29, Haley, received the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Irving Kristol Award--the highest honor bestowed by AEI, the powerful mecca of neoconservative though, policy formulation and action.

Outgoing AEI president Arthur Brooks said, “We are proud to honor Nikki Haley, the daughter of immigrants, an American success story, an experienced diplomat, and a principled leader. She has fought for the values that the American Enterprise Institute has always held dear,” while his successor Robert Doar declared, “Ambassador Nikki Haley represents what is best in our country. We are honored to salute her for her leadership and for the work she has done in making this nation safer.”

In lauding Haley during her “effective tenure” at the UN, AEI said she was responsible for “orchestrating the adoption of stringent sanctions against North Korea, leading the education of members about the dangers of the Iranian regime, fighting for U.S. ally Israel, and driving the passage of a Security Council arms embargo against South Sudan.”

AEI’s Irving Kristol Award is given annually to individuals “who have made exceptional practical and intellectual contributions to improve government policy, social welfare, or political understanding.”

Established in 2002 in honor of AEI Senior Fellow Irving Kristol, the accolade replaced the Francis Boyer Award, which had been given for the previous 25 years. Previous recipients include Gerald Ford, Arthur F. Burns, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan, Paul Ryan, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the invitation only ceremony and dinner that took place at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Doar in his welcoming remarks said, “If the United States is to gain the respect of world opinion,” as Irving wrote in 1975, “it first has to demonstrate that it respects itself — its own institutions, its own way of life, the political and social philosophy that is the basis of its institutions and its way of life.”

Saying that “to persuade the world we have to show that we love our country,” Doar said, “That line of thinking helps us see why our honoree tonight, Ambassador Nikki Haley, is an ideal person to receive the Irving Kristol Award.

During her time at the United Nations, Ambassador Haley embodied this idea that a constructive role for America in the world begins with self-respect. She is unafraid to stand up for American ideals and American interests, and she knows how closely connected the two always are.”

“It was so refreshing and reassuring to hear her press this point at the UN. And I trust she will continue to be a powerful advocate for what is best about our country in the years to come,” he said, hinting broadly about the support she would receive from the neo-cons if she declares her intent to run for president in 2024.

Doar said, “Nikki Haley’s story affirms that American ethos. To follow her career is to see the great example she has set at home and around the world. She has been an eloquent and powerful advocate for America on the world stage as ambassador to the UN, an impassioned defender of limited government as governor of South Carolina, and a powerful voice of moral clarity in our national political climate.”

Doar reiterated, “Ambassador Haley, a daughter of South Carolina, is the perfect exemplar. Irving would be proud of anyone in public life who has set such an example of courage, decency, and patriotism.”

One of the leading Indian American lobbyists in the corporate sector in a multinational company with vast international interests, who was at the dinner but wished not to be identified, told India Abroad that “she’s definitely running” in 2024, and acknowledged that this had been “the buzz all evening,” and Haley basking in the outpouring of support from the majority of the attendees urging her to run, and clearly having no ambiguity that she would be their preferred choice to current Vice President Mike Pence, totally devoid of the kind of credentials that are the wish-list of neoconservatives.

Haley in her acceptance remarks, said, “It’s a tremendous honor to receive an award named for the great Irving Kristol, who did so much to strengthen the intellectual foundations that led to American victory in the Cold War and freedom for hundreds of millions of people.For most of the past 15 years I have lived and worked where AEI’s ideas are tested in practice.”

“I want to start by saying I am optimistic about America’s future,” she said. “We have our problems. There’s no denying that.But America has survived a revolution, a foreign invasion, a civil war, a great depression, the largest war in world history, and social unrest of a dozen different stripes. And we’ve come out stronger after every test.We are a truly exceptional nation.”

Haley argued, “One reason things may seem dark, especially on social media and cable news, is that we have lots of people who are attempting to reject the very things that set America apart.This is a real problem. And it’s one we should strongly resist.”

“Our history is being attacked as a lie. Influential voices on the left claim America was founded not in freedom, but in oppression.The idea that we must be in control of our borders is dismissed as uncaring bigotry.”

Saying that “some are attempting to redefine American citizenship itself,” Haley said, “Ronald Reagan once asked Americans to choose between being citizens or subjects. It was the sixties. Government and liberalism were on the march. The question fit the times.Today we face a different choice. It is a choice between citizenship and victimhood.”

“Our politics is becoming a contest over who’s got the biggest grievance. Who’s getting the short end of the stick. Who’s being taken advantage of by a rigged system,” Haley said.

Talking about her UN tenure, she said, “My time at the UN certainly made me wiser about the world and sadder about parts of it. But it also made me more grateful about our country.”

“At the UN, I worked alongside the ambassadors of dictators and strongmen. I traveled to places most Americans will never go, and I saw things most Americans will never see.What I saw cut through the loud and polarizing voices in our country. I saw what sets America apart — what we must protect and preserve.”

Haley said, “People from all over the world are drawn to the United States by our exceptionalism — our freedom, our opportunity, and our belief in human dignity. My parents were among them.They came from India to rural South Carolina in the 1960s.My mother wore a sari. My father wore a turban. He still does today.We were different. We stood out. And my family felt the pain of being judged by our difference.”

“Many Americans have felt this pain. Many have felt much worse.But my parents refused to let it define them.They chose citizenship over victimhood.They came to the United States legally. They respected the right of the American people to protect their sovereignty, to be the ones who decide who can join us. And in return, America welcomed them.”

Haley said, “Immigration is a source of American strength when it is conducted in accordance with our principles. But it must be a two-way street.We welcome immigrants who come to America in accordance with the rule of law.And we must call upon those immigrants to embrace our values and respect our laws in order to become Americans.”

On foreign policy, she went after those she perceived as challenging American leadership and those who say, to remain strong “America must give up its advocacy of freedom and human dignity abroad.”

Haley asserted, “This represents a failure of memory,” and argued, “a world without United States leadership does not mean a world in which our values and interests peacefully coexist with other countries.”

“That is a dark place for American values and a dangerous place for American security,” she said. “It would be nicer and cheaper if American leadership was not needed to protect our values and our interests. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in.

Haley added, “If you don’t believe me, I invite you to spend a day in the United Nations Security Council.Some of its most powerful members not only don’t share American values; they actively work to defeat them.”

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