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Nikki Haley’s Departure From Boeing Rekindles VP Speculation

The neoconservative, former U.N. ambassador’s exit was ostensibly over a government bailout.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Credit: Flickr/Creative Commons/U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers

“End of her career,” a former senior administration official told me Friday morning.

The news: Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and erstwhile favorite for the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, had resigned from the board of Boeing, an enormous employer in her native South Carolina. The rationale: fiduciary opposition to the government stimulus spearheaded by the administration she once served. 

“I cannot support a move to lean on the federal government for a stimulus or bailout that prioritizes our company over others and relies on taxpayers to guarantee our financial position,” said Haley in a letter to the corporate behemoth’s CEO, board chairman and her former colleagues. 

If this maneuver represents the terminus of her career, that appears to be news to Haley, whose notification to Boeing reads more political than principled. 

The debt-ridden rising star took the cushy seat after departing the American executive branch in autumn 2018. It was a bargain with the future. 

The move was widely seen as a relatively acceptable way for the ex-governor to get her financial house in order, while shoring up her prestige in corporate America ahead of a widely anticipated 2024 run for the presidency. 

But there are moments when reward blends too clearly into risk. 

Near-presumptive Democratic presidential Joe Biden reportedly turned down a massive, $38 million financial opportunity ahead of his run this year. Hillary Clinton’s naked cashout in her civilian years — facilitated by an ex-president husband — weighs now as heavy precedent for White House aspirants of what not to do ahead of a national run. 

That the Republican upper echelon is now besieged with accusations of financial impropriety was likely the coup de grace for the wily Haley. Accusations of heinous insider trading on the Coronavirus by Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga, and Richard Burr, R-N.C., dominate Friday’s headlines.   

Neoconservative godfather William Kristol has speculated, as he does, that a call to the front could come even sooner. 

“Biden commits to pick a woman as VP. Nikki Haley clearing her calendar for the fall,” the ex-editor of the Weekly Standard wrote March 15. “If you believe this, I have a crumbling bridge to sell you,” former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice tweeted.

People need so little encouragement

Since her Cabinet departure, Haley’s return has been floated– on the bottom of the ticket with Donald Trump. Fevered intrigue surrounded the appointment of Vice President Mike Pence as head of the president’s Coronavirus task– at best, it’s a moment for the former Indiana governor to shine. But, at worst, it’s a poison chalice. 

The last two incumbent presidents have considered ticket switches– George W. Bush considered swapping Dick Cheney for Bill Frist, then the Senate Majority Leader, as well as Barack Obama, who thought, briefly, of flipping Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton, who ended up his favored successor. 

The relative, political merits of Biden vs. Clinton will, of course, be relitigated this year, as Biden secures his party’s nomination and tries his hand at what Clinton failed to do: besting Donald Trump.

It’s likely, come summer, were the president to seriously entertain such a move, that Trump would cast a wider net, and consider figures other than the ambassador. Richard “Ric” Grenell, Trump’s man in the deep state, is one name I’ve heard. That Haley has now resigned over an administration prerogative — a massive stimulus to steady the economy through the pandemic — is another wrinkle. 

Haley has also cut the figure of a hardline marketier in recent months, penning a Wall Street Journalop-ed that was widely viewed in Washington as not only a rebuke of Bernie Sanders, but also a veritable subtweet of conservatives, such as former Romneyite Oren Cass at American Compass, interested in industrial policy, supporting family formation and confronting inequality

Haley has clearly allied herself with her native state’s men in Washington — Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott — both of whom opposed the aggressive measures championed by the administration, particularly Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. Her comrades in arms are legislators such as Rep. Dan Crenshaw, while a decided conservative, someone who clearly seeks a Trump without Trumpism.

More than anything, a Haley ascension would be viewed by, some, of the president’s early, core supporters as an eviscerating betrayal, a choice as perplexing as Trump’s last tapping of a hawkish, former U.N. ambassador– when he called up John Bolton to serve as national security advisor two years ago. 

We saw how that story ended.

about the author

Curt Mills is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, where he previously served as senior reporter. He specializes in foreign policy and campaign coverage and has worked at The National Interest, U.S. News and World Report, Washington Examiner, and the Spectator, and his work has appeared in UnHerd and Newsweek. He was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow.

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