The self-serving genre of Trump administration officials writing books or dancing with stars in order to reframe their time in the White House will gain its most self-serving entry to date on Tuesday with the publication of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s With All Due Respect. In a copy of the book obtained by the Washington Post, Haley creates a convenient distance from the president on some of his worst impulses, while staying in his corner on matters that remain popular among the GOP base.
Establishing herself as a hero of the cantankerous administration, Haley has found her villains in former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She writes that the pair reached out to her in their efforts to help push back against Trump’s impetuous decision-making, which she frames as an effort to undermine the president. “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country … It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing.”
Though that last statement has been proven accurate on several occasions, Haley is critical of her fellow officials’ decision to slow-walk the president’s off-the-cuff ideas. According to the book, Tillerson also told Haley that people would die if Trump — who reportedly wanted to shoot migrants’ legs and threatened the “total destruction” of North Korea — was not curtailed. Condemning the idea of a built-in check on Trump should be a talking point that resonates for the presidential and larger Republican audiences, as her argument mirrors the popular, conspiratorial deep state critique that Trump himself has endorsed.
In the book, Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, aligns herself with the president on foreign policy moves that are uncontroversial among his supporters, like backing the withdrawal from the Iran deal and the Paris climate accord, and moving the Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, she pushes back on the racist ideas he’s expressed during his administration — including her rejection of Trump’s “moral equivalence” following the 2017 Unite the Right rally in which a white nationalist killed a counter-protester. (Trump’s language was a little more direct, claiming that there were “very fine people on both sides.”)
In an interview with CBS on Sunday, Haley also said that Trump’s call for four Congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” was not appropriate. (Three of the four representatives were born in the United States.) Haley added: “I can also appreciate where he’s coming from, from the standpoint of, ‘Don’t bash America, over and over and over again, and not do something to try and fix it.’” (As president, Trump has said that the United States has a “lack of law and order” and “a lot of killers,” and called a major American city a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”)
Haley’s attempt to distance herself from matters that, hopefully, will be considered low points of the Trump presidency in a few years — say November 2024 — could be an asset as she determines her political future. Though the state of the GOP after Trump is an opaque mess, a potential Haley presidential run is about as clear as the party gets at the moment. Unfortunately for Tillerson and Kelly, her narrative means they’re under the campaign bus, not on it.