Editorial: Haley needs to focus on preparing for ambassadorship

SC Gov Nikki Haley hugs Lt Gov Henry McMaster after their 2014 election victories.
SC Gov Nikki Haley hugs Lt Gov Henry McMaster after their 2014 election victories. gmelendez@thestate.com

ON TUESDAY, GOV. Nikki Haley asked us all to pray for South Carolina, which has faced and continues to face significant challenges. Today, we all need to pray for Gov. Haley, as she prepares for a very different and very difficult challenge.

There’s a lot of distance between Thanksgiving and Ambassador Haley. And there’s no guarantee that the Senate, even a Republican Senate, will confirm someone with no foreign policy experience, much less diplomatic experience, as ambassador to the United Nations.


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Although it isn’t our most important foreign policy position, it is extremely important. And frankly, it’s a stretch. For all that President-elect Donald Trump and the governor’s supporters say about her deal-making prowess, we’ve only seen that on display in deals between corporations that wanted to locate in our state and a state that wanted those corporations to locate here.

The challenge she has met, in other words, was coming up with a deal between two parties that wanted to make a deal. That’s very different than the challenges facing a UN ambassador. We certainly hope that her talents can translate to this new role, but we simply don’t know because she is untested.

Gov. Haley said Wednesday that she had not anticipated leaving her current job before it’s completed. But she noted that, “When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed.”

She’s absolutely right about that. While there are some positions that a sitting governor probably should reject — positions that are more about allowing a loyal supporter to cash in than about serving the nation — this isn’t one of them. Anyone has an obligation to seriously consider a president’s request to serve in an important position, regardless of who the president is or how committed that person might be to her current position.

The governor also said she would remain our governor until her confirmation, in part because “We still have much to do in South Carolina, and my commitment to the people of our state will always remain unbreakable.”

That is honorable. But while we would not ask her to resign yet, we would urge her to informally turn many of her responsibilities over to Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, sooner rather than later.

We are accustomed to UN ambassadors who have extensive foreign policy experience, and usually diplomatic experience as well. In the absence of either, Gov. Haley owes it to our nation to spend the time between now and her confirmation doing everything she can to make up for that lack of experience — meeting not just with handlers trained to guide her through the confirmation process but also with experts who can help bring her up to speed on all the issues that need to be mastered by the UN ambassador of the most important country in the world.

The Senate, too, owes it to our nation to make sure that Gov. Haley is prepared — that she has the appropriate temperament, judgment and knowledge base to serve in this position. Confirmation hearings for someone with her experience should not be particularly easy — and that is why she needs the next two months to prepare for them.

Gov. Haley is a bright and talented politician, and we hope that she will be able to scale the extremely steep learning curve that lies ahead. Assuming she is able to make the Senate comfortable with her ability to serve our nation in this very different sort of job, we wish her all the best in her new position.