Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Nimarata the Piñata

Nimarata “Nikki” Haley was attacked on Wednesday night—not because she’s a strong target, but because she’s an easy one.


There is supposedly a law of political debates that posits that a candidate being attacked is rising. That is nonsense for two reasons. First, candidates are much more concerned with making themselves look good and will attack any opponent to do so. Second, sometimes a candidate gets hit not because they’re winning, but because they deserve to get hit. 

Such was the case for Nimarata “Nikki” Haley in Wednesday night’s debate. Sure, she’s increased her share in the national polls by 3 percent over the last two months and change, but that’s mostly due to other right-liberals, establishment Republicans, and Cold Warriors getting out of the race. Wednesday’s hatchet job of Haley had very little to do with her so-called rise (in the same period, Trump’s numbers have increased by more than five points), and much more to do with the fact that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy saw they could score easy points by deservedly dunking on Haley for her views on transgenderism and foreign policy.


From the start, DeSantis’s and Ramaswamy’s guns were trained on Haley—it appears she left her ammunition heels at home. When DeSantis fielded the first question from moderator Megyn Kelly, the governor said, “I have delivered results. That’s what we need for this country. And you have other candidates up here like Nikki Haley. She caves anytime the left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her. I did a bill in Florida to stop the gender mutilation of minors. It’s child abuse and it’s wrong. She opposes that bill. She thinks it’s fine and the law shouldn't get involved with it.”

“If you’re not willing to stand up and say that it is wrong to mutilate these kids, then you’re not going to fight for the people back home,” DeSantis said in conclusion. “I will fight for you and I will win for you.”

Kelly’s next question was for Haley, and even she got in on the fun. Kelly noted that Haley had $100,000 in the bank when she left the Trump administration in 2018, and five years later, is reportedly worth $8 million “thanks to lucrative corporate speeches and board memberships, like you had with Boeing.” Kelly expanded the connections to Haley’s campaign: “Weeks ago you met with Wall Street heavyweights including leaders from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and BlackRock. Several other billionaire investors are reportedly ready to endorse you or recently have, all of which comes with expectations.”

Kelly got to the question: “Aren’t you too tight with the banks and the billionaires to win over the GOP working class base, which mostly wants to break the system, not elect someone beholden to it?”

Haley dodged the question and turned to DeSantis’s criticism, but she did not really address that either. Instead, she talked about the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, which she called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and which is not the bill that banned the mutilation of children in Florida.


DeSantis was quick to seize on Haley’s confusion. “You didn't respond to the criticism. It wasn’t about the parents’ rights education bill. It was about prohibiting sex change operations on minors,” DeSantis explained. “That is what Nikki Haley opposed. She said the law shouldn’t get involved in that…. If you’re somebody that’s going to be the President of the United States and you can’t stand up against child abuse, how are you going to be able to stand up for anything?”

When it was Ramaswamy’s turn to speak, he returned to the question Haley thought she dodged from Kelly. “Nikki, you were bankrupt when you left the U.N. After you left the U.N., you became a military contractor.” Haley also joined the board of Boeing, and has toured the country giving speeches for tens of thousands of dollars. “Now you’re a multimillionaire,” Ramaswamy said. “That math does not add up. It adds up to the fact that you are corrupt.” Later, Ramaswamy would hold up a sketchpad with a handwritten note: “NIKKI = CORRUPT.”

Haley did eventually respond to the question Kelly originally posed. “I love Boeing. They build good commercial airplanes. They build airplanes for our Air Force. I’m proud of them,” Haley rejoined. “In terms of these donors that are supporting me, they’re just jealous. They wish that they were supporting them.”

Foreign policy quickly overwhelmed the debate. In truth, the bulk of Wednesday’s debate focused on other nations’ issues and not America’s—the rising cost of living, the economy, falling wages, the price of health care, education, and immigration (beyond the cartels and illegals).

One moderator posed another question to Haley: “You said in last month’s debate that, by contrast to the Biden administration’s approach to Iran, you would, ‘punch them once and punch them hard.’ Were you saying that it's time to bomb Iran?”

“No, I was not saying it's time to bomb Iran,” Haley replied. Then there was the ‘but.’ “But I will tell you, I dealt with Iran every day when I was at the United Nations and they only respond to strength.… What they don't respond to, is when they do 140 strikes on our men and women in Syria and Iraq, and we do nothing but just some small shots back. You’ve got to punch them, you've got to punch them hard, and let them know that. That's the only way they’re going to respond.” 

Haley claims she does not want to put boots on the ground in Israel or Ukraine. She’s also said sanctions don’t go far enough. How else should a reasonable person interpret this other than Haley is disingenuous when she says she doesn’t want to bomb Iran? Haley says not to worry because she would only strike “their infrastructure in Syria and Iraq.” But if Haley believes Hamas’s attack on Israel in October was an attack on America, can the Iranians employ that same logic?

Furthermore, Haley’s response demonstrates what she’s made abundantly clear on the trail: She has no conception of escalatory action. When Haley says Iran would “respond,” she assumes the Ayatollahs would just roll over. But, as Haley pointed out, actors in the region have the capabilities to strike over-extended U.S. forces in the region with ease. It is a target rich environment: the U.S. has 40,000 service members stationed in the Middle East. How many U.S. service members have to die for Haley to show the Ayatollahs that girls can do anything boys can do?

Haley then lays out quite the conspiracy: Russia, China, and Iran are essentially working in lockstep to destroy America. Hamas’s invasion of Israel, she implied, was a birthday present to Putin: “Hamas goes and invades Israel and butchers those people on Putin’s birthday.” She continued,

There is no one happier right now than Putin because all the attention America had on Ukraine suddenly went to Israel, and that’s what they were hoping is going to happen.… There is a reason again that Taiwanese want to help Ukrainians because they know if Ukraine wins, China won’t invade Taiwan. There’s a reason the Ukrainians want to help Israelis because they know that if Iran wins, Russia wins. These are all connected.

“Foreign policy experience is not the same as foreign policy wisdom,” Ramaswamy interjected. “I think those with foreign policy experience, one thing that Joe Biden and Nikki Haley have in common, is that neither of them could even state for you three provinces in eastern Ukraine that they want to send our troops to actually fight for.”

The camera panned to Haley. Her chin was tilted down, her eyes locked on a 1,000 yard stare.

“Look at that,” Ramaswamy said. “This is what I want people to understand.… She has no idea what the hell the names of those provinces are, but she wants to send our sons and daughters and our troops and our military equipment to go fight it. So reject this myth that they've been selling you that somebody had a cup of coffee stint at the U.N. and then makes 8 million bucks after has real foreign policy experience.”

Eventually, Chris Christie (yes, he was there too) white knighted Haley, which is about the only combat Christie is fit for. For four minutes and five seconds, Haley could not name three provinces in eastern Ukraine America’s sons and daughters would be forced to defend. Eventually, she said “Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea.” That’s the wrong answer. The right answer would be Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. The only scenario in which Crimea is part of the answer is if you fantasize leading the U.S. into WWIII.

Apparently, Haley fantasizes about just that. After the debate, Kelly interviewed her one on one and continued the conversation about Ukraine. “The way you end Ukraine is if you went and said to Ukraine, we will invite you into NATO,” Haley proclaimed. “Putin would know he needs to come up with an exit strategy, Zelensky would know he can go back and say we got the invitation.”

Is Haley delusional? Kelly stated the obvious: “If Putin does continue fighting with Ukraine, and they come into NATO, then we have to fight.”

Haley’s response had much more to do with what is best for Ukraine and Israel than what is best for America. “The Ukrainians and Israelis, they don’t want American troops,” Haley replied. “They want to win this on their own. They want to win their countries on their own. I don’t think we should ever give cash to any country,” and, prompted by Kelly, added “no troops.” The trouble for Haley, of course, is that under Biden, the U.S. already has support personnel on the ground and continues spending billions just to keep the Ukrainian government afloat. 

As Ramaswamy said, “[Haley] is a woman who will send your kids to die so she can buy a bigger house.” Sadly for Haley, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. won’t be on the market.


Become a Member today for a growing stake in the conservative movement.
Join here!
Join here