Nikki Haley to Be UN Ambassador

While it seems a strange choice at first blush, it's a good one.


According to multiple reports, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is slated to become UN Ambassador in the incoming Trump administration. The Post and Courier:

President-elect Donald Trump is picking South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to become his U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, The Post and Courier has learned.

The move, expected Wednesday, continues the steep political rise of the daughter of Indian immigrants that started six years ago when the Bamberg native was elected as South Carolina’s first female and minority governor.

The planned nomination to the cabinet-level post, confirmed by multiple sources with knowledge of the decision, is likely to raise questions about Haley’s qualifications for a major foreign policy role since she has little diplomatic experience as state lawmaker and governor.

The 44-year-old’s chief foreign work centers on negotiating with international companies seeking economic development deals in the state and leading seven overseas trade missions as governor. Her husband, Michael, was deployed for nearly a year in Afghanistan with the S.C. National Guard in 2013.

Recent UN ambassadors typically have experience in presidential administrations, usually with the State Department or National Security Council. The post would be Haley’s first in the federal government.

While the choice struck me as odd when I first saw the news, her lack of foreign policy credentials are not particularly unusual. Indeed, some of our most famous UN Ambassadors have been politicians with no diplomatic background. While the first person to hold the post, Edward Stettinius Jr., had previously served as Secretary of State, many of his successors were neophytes. Indeed, his immediate successor, Warren Austin, was a United States Senator. Warren had spent a year in China as a business attorney but that’s arguably less overseas experience than a coastal state governor.

Among other notable non-diplomats to hold the post have been Adlai Stevenson, an Illinois governor who was twice the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for president; retired Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg; former Congressman and failed Senate candidate George H. W. Bush; newsman John Scali; former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton; civil rights leader and Congressman Andrew Young; longtime Congressman Bill Richardson; and former Missouri Senator John Danforth.

Reagan’s first UN Ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, had no previous government experience but was a foreign policy academic. Ditto Bill Clinton’s first, Madeleine Albright.

I haven’t followed Haley’s career all that closely but she strikes me as a strong leader with good sensibilities on controversial issues. She’s a welcome sane voice in an uncertain administration.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Franklin says:

    Asuuming the report is correct … Could’ve been a lot worse.

  2. CSK says:

    And Ben Carson for HUD. Seriously.

    The Trumpkins hate Haley, largely because of her decision about the Confederate flag.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    She’s a welcome sane voice in an uncertain administration.

    Therefor, she won’t last long.

  4. rachel says:

    @Franklin: Better than Bolton was for sure. Setting the bar low, I know, but Trump could have chosen somebody so much worse and has for other positions.

    So how does SC replace a governor? Is there a special election, or does the Lt Governor move on up and sit for the remainder of the term?

  5. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: I don’t get that one. Carson makes sense for HHS or even Surgeon General.

  6. MBunge says:

    But…but…but…Donald Trump is supposed to be a vindictive child who cares only about personal grudges and a racist, sexist xenophobe. Weird. It’s almost as if a billionaire businessman from New York who has been a public figure for 30 years and just won the Presidency ISN’T a stupid clown.


  7. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:

    Yes, I know, particularly given that last week Carson said he didn’t want a cabinet position. He said further that he wanted the Thanksgiving weekend to think over this most recent offer.

    In passing, I wonder who Trump has in mind for Surgeon General, since it doesn’t seem to be Carson.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: No, he’s a stupid clown. He’s handing over trade in Asia to being ruled by China with the whole TPP matter, is making it almost impossible for us to get a leg up on solar renewable energy technology (which China will now dominate) and unless he starts slamming back HARD on the neo-Nazis, expect to see the US become locus non grata for a lot of rich foreigners, foreign students, and people who might otherwise contribute to the US. Which means they will go elsewhere and some other country will benefit.

    Trump can rant all he wants about his “negotiation skills”; other people do not have to even enter the arena. Negotiation is worth zip if no one talks to you.

  9. James Pearce says:


    The Trumpkins hate Haley, largely because of her decision about the Confederate flag.

    Indeed, her decision about the Confederate flag bolsters a sense of relief that Haley was picked for this post. As Franklin says, it could have been worse.

    If I lived in SC though, I’d want my governor back.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @grumpy realist:

    He’s handing over trade in Asia to being ruled by China with the whole TPP matter

    Clinton took the same position on the campaign trail. I think she was lying, but she nonetheless got backed there by Sanders.

  11. rachel says:

    @MBunge: What are you blithering about? It’s not like Haley denounced him.
    In fact back when Don the Con tweeted

    The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!

    she responded

    Bless your heart.

    She was very nice and ladylike to him, so why wouldn’t he reward her?

  12. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I wonder who Trump has in mind for Surgeon General

    LOL, Dr. Phil? 🙂

  13. John Peabody says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Is Dr. Ruth still with us?

  14. slimslowslider says:

    @James Joyner:


  15. C. Clavin says:

    Haley and Trump would dismantle the Iran Agreement…a move that would almost immediately give Iran a nuke and further destabilize the region…not to mention the diplomatic fractures it would create.
    We are staring down the barrel of a religious war under these clowns.
    Dark days…

  16. C. Clavin says:

    Do you think he grabbed her pussy when he interviewed her?

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:


    So how does SC replace a governor? Is there a special election, or does the Lt Governor move on up and sit for the remainder of the term?

    The Lt Gov. moves up and takes her place. Under SC’s constitution, the president pro tempore of their Senate is supposed to move up to Lt. Governor, but there is precedent there in which that piece of the equation caused a constitutional crisis: the PPT of the SC Senate (one of the more powerful roles in their government) didn’t want the Lt. Gov. job (one of the least powerful) and refused to accept it in 2014, ultimately resulting in him resigning his seat altogether and a desperate effort ensuing to find somebody in the body willing to take the job. They finally ended up giving it to a Democrat.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @John Peabody:

    Is Dr. Ruth still with us?

    YES! You, sir, win the internet today 🙂

  19. C. Clavin says:

    BTW…Clinton now leads by over 2 million votes.

  20. @rachel:

    I’m not from the South originally, but I know enough to know that “Bless Your Heart” is not meant to be a compliment 🙂

  21. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yes, indeed. But does Trump? 😀

  22. wr says:

    @MBunge: Wait a minute, You’ve been whining all along about how horrible Trump is, and how terrible it was the the Dems nominated a candidate so rotten that only she could lose to Trump.

    Now you’re playing the Jenos role — “ooh, you nasty condescending libs don’t have a fraction of us little people out there.”

    It’s a little late to change personae entirely, unless you’ve decided to go full troll.

  23. Stormy Dragon says:

    It should be noted that the SC lt. governor Henry McMaster was an very early endorser of Trump during the primaries, so this could be more about getting McMaster a promotion than about Nikki Haley per se.

  24. Paul Hooson says:

    A mainstream conservative like this is reassuring here.

  25. john430 says:

    @C. Clavin: Whassamatter Cliffie? Nikki Haley too brown-skinned for you? Racist!

  26. john430 says:

    @James Joyner: James. Remind me again. What exactly were Obama’s superb qualifications for the Presidency? Were they his total lack of experience in international diplomacy, or was it his total lack of experience in actual governing? LOL!

  27. James Joyner says:


    Remind me again. What exactly were Obama’s superb qualifications for the Presidency?

    I opposed him in both 2008 and 2012, the first time largely because he was inexperienced. But he met all the qualifications for the job, having been a natural-born citizen, over 35 years of age, and getting a majority of votes from the Electoral College. In 2012 he was, by definition, more qualified than his opponent in presidential-level experience.

  28. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    Wait, I thought Trump was the anti-immigrant sexist white supremacist who would fill his cabinet with ass-kissers. I read it here, repeatedly, so it has to be true.

  29. wr says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable: Shorter Jenos: “Some of my best friends are black. Or they would be if I had any friends. So obviously I’m not a racist.”

  30. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @rachel: The lieutenant governor (Henry McMaster) takes over for the governor. However, he’s been rumored to be under consideration for a position (possibly in the Justice Dept.). If he accepts such a position, the President Pro Tem (a man in his late 70s) becomes governor.

  31. Obama may have Bernardo unexperieced when he first run, but at least he had some years in the Illinois and US Senate.

  32. JohnMcC says:

    I had a quick reaction to the news of Gov Haley’s nomination: I wonder if the Trump brain-trust thought that because she’s from a South-Asian family she’d ‘fit’ in the U.N.

  33. john430 says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: He had years in the Ill. Senate-true, but he was a back-bencher of no importance. Ditto the U.S. Senate.

  34. MBunge says:


    I seriously have no idea what you mean. Maybe you’re getting me confused with someone else.

    I think Trump is likely to be a disaster because we’ve got some really big problems to deal with and he clearly knows and cares little about most public policy. I also thought Hillary would have been a disaster because she has atrocious judgment, the political skills of peat moss and represented more of what hasn’t been working. I also am sick and tired of the Clintons, their nonsense and their pernicious effect on people who ought to know better.

    I’m just enjoying how the people who were 1000% wrong about the election (as opposed to people like me who were only 500% wrong) are now faced with the cognitive dissonance of Trump as the President-elect proving that they’re still wrong. Tapping someone like Haley and even considering someone like Romney is the exact opposite of what a supposedly vindictive man-child would do.

    What is the over/under on when we all have to stop underestimating Trump?


  35. MBunge says:


    Shorter wr: “I got nothing.”


  36. grumpy realist says:

    And DeVos for the Secretary of Education or whatever it is….

    Hello vouchers and cherry-picking, goodbye public schooling (which will remain the dumping ground for dysfunctional children).

    Oh well, public school education in the US has been crap ever since the 1960s made it possible for brilliant women to do something else besides being teachers. Of course, no one wants to pay for the increased salaries required to keep the brilliant women around, hence it’s turned into the catch-basket for the can’t-do-anything-else and the idealistic (who burn out rapidly.) Add to that one of the most sclerotic public unions, a rapidly growing population of “kids with problems” (ADHD, autism, etc.) and parents who either couldn’t care less or those who hover over their kids wanting to shield little Johnny from the trauma of failing a test because he didn’t study–no wonder it’s a mess.

    Maybe if we stopped treating education as government-paid baby-sitting for kids until they reach 18 we’d do better. And maybe if we thought teachers to be worth respect and a decent salary we’d do even more.

  37. Dazedandconfused says:

    She’s a smart gal but I would be surprised to learn Trump gives a two hoots about the UN. He may view the post as mostly or even purely symbolic.

    Nevertheless it is good to see someone who will attempt to do their own thinking (and can) there. The UN is at times used as a conduit for subtil messaging.

  38. Slugger says:

    These days does it matter who is ambassador of anything? In the past, ambassadors had some scope of independent action in representing their nations to remote peoples. Today, the ambassador’s office handles stuff for tourists who break local laws, but they have no independent action. I think Colin Powell’s presentation of fake evidence of Iraqi WMDs could have been done by some lower level civil service employee. There is some symbolic value, I guess; appointing Joe Kennedy to the Court of St. James’s was certainly a way to give a big middle finger to the English crown.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    Ben Carson for HUD?

    Oh well, it’s screwed up enough already that I doubt that even Ben Carson can make it worse. And if he does, it’s on his head.

    Now we know how the United States of America is going to collapse: Peter Principled into irrelevance.

  40. Gustopher says:

    Well, I suppose he has to fill these positions with someone, and I don’t know anything about her that would make her worse than Carson for HUD…

  41. john430 says:

    @grumpy realist: After Castro at it’s head? Mickey Mouse would be an improvement!

  42. Kylopod says:


    I’m just enjoying how the people who were 1000% wrong about the election (as opposed to people like me who were only 500% wrong)

    That’s some good bit of revision there. You repeatedly insisted that Trump had a “nonzero” chance of winning. People challenged you not because they thought your estimate was wrong but because it was an utterly trivial statement you were presenting as a brave and courageous one. To quote that overquoted quote, the word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  43. stonetools says:

    Trump chose her for the role , presumably, because he knows that the UN is full of foreign brown -skinned people, so he graciously decided to send them one of their own.
    At least this choice has the merit of merely having no relevant experience, rather than being evil and having relevant experience (Sessions) and evil and having no relevant experience(everyone else).