Nikki Haley, Squish?

Nikki Haley did a good job as Governor of South Carolina, and an excellent job as Donald Trump’s UN Ambassador. That was where she became a favorite of many conservatives. At the same time, there is legitimate doubt about how conservative she really is. Several times, her first reaction to events has been misguided and not at all conservative–among others, after George Floyd’s death she tweeted about the need for police reform. It is hard to be more tone-deaf than that.

As the Republican presidential process has ground on, differences between Haley and some of the other contenders have sharpened. She is denounced as a “globalist,” which means among other things that she is relatively enthusiastic about spending billions more to help Ukraine. Haley has been in the crosshairs of the isolationist-leaning Vivek Ramaswamy, and Rand Paul has launched a “never Nikki” campaign.

When asked about the cause of the Civil War, Haley equivocated and couldn’t bring herself to say that the war was about slavery–a lapse which I attributed to her sensitivity to the view, rather widespread in some southern states, that the Civil War was really, contrary to history and common sense, about something else.

Most recently, Haley is being faulted on the social issue of gender. On the campaign trail during an Iowa call-in event, she was unable to say whether a man can become a woman. Her answer was a classic of equivocation, starting with a denunciation of Trump’s “chaos” and proceeding to a non-answer that emphasized limited government, usually a safe theme with Republicans:

Now, can a man become a woman. There’s been a lot that’s been talked about when it comes to all of these roles and all of these issues. I strongly believe that we should not allow any gender change surgeries to anyone before the age of 18. Period. We–kids now can’t get a tattoo until they’re 18. We shouldn’t have them permanently change their body until they’re 18. And that includes puberty blockers, that includes any sort of hormones that would do that.

After the age of 18, we want to make sure people can live any way they want to live. I don’t think government needs to be in control of anybody’s life. You go live the way you want to live, you should be free to live the way you want to live, and every– government and everybody else should stay out of your way.

But prior to 18, it is an important time, especially when you’re going through your teenage years that can be confusing. I don’t think we should ever in any way have any sort of permanent changes. But after 18, I’m not going to say anything. I think that, you know, you always have to believe in freedom and allowing people to live the life the way they want to live, and if that’s how they choose then, you know, I don’t think government should have any say in that.

Few Republicans would argue with her emphasis on minors not being subjected to life-altering surgeries and chemical treatments. But there is another series of issues that Haley failed to address, including the intrusion of men into women’s spaces like locker rooms and showers, and men competing in women’s sports. It shouldn’t be hard for a conservative to say that women can’t become men, or vice versa, no matter how hard they try. But Haley can’t bring herself to make such a clear statement.

Would Nikki Haley be a vast improvement on Joe Biden? Of course. But I am afraid that her instincts are not particularly conservative, and if she were president, would lead her astray much too often.

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