Lots of Haley fans were high-fiving last night after Larry Kudlow accused her of being confused about the policy and she sniffed in retort, “I don’t get confused.” No one messes with Haley!
Having the West Wing dial up Moscow and tell them that the UN ambassador doesn’t know what she’s talking about seems to be a pretty effective way of messing with her, though. Particularly her credibility as a diplomat charged with speaking on behalf of the United States.
Also, if Haley never gets confused, how do you explain her thinking Marco Rubio was going to win the primaries in 2016? Zing!
The Russian government was given a backdoor assurance on Sunday that no more sanctions were coming and to just ignore Nikki Haley. pic.twitter.com/bC8JeSbehg
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) April 18, 2018
Karen Townsend noted in an earlier post that there may be a rational explanation for Haley announcing the wrong policy on “Face the Nation.” Simply, Russia was more conciliatory after Trump’s Syria attack on Friday night than the White House expected. After a week of rumblings in American media that Trump wanted a more aggressive response to Assad this time, replete with new sanctions for Russia, Putin may have worried that direct confrontation with the U.S. would soon be unavoidable. James Mattis won the internal debate among Trump’s advisors, though, pleading for more limited strikes in the name of avoiding a wider war. That’s what ended up happening — another wrist slap for Assad, to Putin’s relief. Russia might have let the White House know on Saturday that they were grateful for the restraint and reiterated Putin’s hope for better relations. (“Putin is ready to make numerous, deep concessions, but he has to appear like he’s not losing,” said one analyst who consults with the Kremlin.) Maybe Trump appreciated the conciliation and decided at the last minute to scrap new sanctions, with someone forgetting to alert Haley before her Sunday morning TV appearance.
That’s one theory, that POTUS had good reason for a last-minute policy switch and Haley was accidentally left outside the loop. Another theory: Trump hadn’t made an official decision yet on sanctions but Haley raced ahead, hoping to set hawkish policy on Russia before the president had signed off. And not for the first time, per the NYT.
President Trump was watching television on Sunday when he saw Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announce that he would impose fresh sanctions on Russia. The president grew angry, according to an official informed about the moment. As far as he was concerned, he had decided no such thing…
This official said that the State Department called an aide to Ms. Haley shortly after she appeared on the show, to suggest she issue a correction. Ms. Haley’s aide replied that her office was considering a correction, but none was ever released. Instead, the White House was left to say the next day that no sanctions had been approved…
At one point recently, he saw Ms. Haley on television sharply criticizing Russia over its intervention in Ukraine. “Who wrote that for her?” Mr. Trump yelled angrily at the screen, according to people briefed on the moment. “Who wrote that for her?”
The White House apparently sent talking points mentioning new sanctions on Russia to other surrogates on Saturday, so Haley may not have been the only deputy who raced ahead of POTUS in readying a hawkish response. This may not be a “Trump vs. Haley” thing on Russia, in other words, so much as a “Trump vs. his entire staff, yet again” thing. Still, the Trump/Haley relationship is obviously strained. And the case could be made that no member of the administration has done as much to raise tensions publicly with Russia as Haley has, regularly unloading on them in UN Security Council speeches that get passed around among conservative media types. I’m not sure why he keeps her on when he’s been willing to endure churn in other cabinet spots in search of finally finding a team he’s comfortable with. If the Times’s reporting is right, he’s clearly not very comfortable with Haley. Why not go with a more Russia-friendly UN ambassador?
But then we’re back to the mystery of why he hired her in the first place. She didn’t endorse him. She didn’t have any foreign policy experience. She doesn’t agree with him on his core diplomatic belief, detente with Russia. She’s a bizarre choice for the role she’s in. The Machiavellian view is that Trump fears Haley and wants to keep her inside the tent to prevent her from making trouble for him outside of it, but I’ve never bought that. She’s a Rubio Republican. What evidence is there that there’s any demand for that outside of the 10 percent of the party that’s Never Trump? Cutting her loose would make sense for him, especially given the silly Pence/Haley 2020 whispers which you and I don’t believe but which Trump might.