UN Ambassador Nikki Haley seems to be practicing assertive diplomacy — with the White House.
In weekend TV interviews, Haley strode right up to the line beyond which she would clearly have been slamming President Donald Trump’s posture on Russia.
She didn’t cross that line. But her remarks stood out, as they have before, in sharp contrast with what Trump has been tweeting, which she seemed to categorize as “chatter.”
On CBS, she was asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin had not succeeded in “destabilizing American institutions” given “charges and tweets” of the past few weeks.
“None of my colleagues or ambassadors from other countries are talking about D.C. chatter,” she said. “I have always said we don’t trust Russia. And I think we’re all aware that Russia was involved in the elections.”
For those who just tuned in: The president, who appointed the former South Carolina governor to the UN post, has called Russian propaganda efforts “fake news” and declined to criticize Putin as he does other leaders and nations.
Continuing, Haley said face-to-face talks “are extremely important because that’s when you get all the chatter out of the way and when you actually focus on getting things done.”
So she was asked if she deemed the president’s tweet “just chatter.”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “You would have to ask everybody else. I don’t hear about them. I don’t talk about them. I don’t have them interfere in everything I’m doing.”
On it went, prompting an observer to wonder if a president and his UN ambassador ever sounded so much at cross-purposes in public.
Early last year, it did not sound as if Haley would become ambassador to anything if Trump somehow won.
She endorsed Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz before coming around to the eventual nominee. Last year, she said in a response to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union speech, “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.”
Trump called her “weak” on immigration. She called him “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president.” He tweeted, “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!” She endorsed him, but said she was “not a fan.”
On ABC, Haley was pressed on whom U.S. allies or adversaries should believe — her or Trump.
“I think we’re both saying the same thing. It’s just being reported differently,” she maintained. “The president has not once called me and said don’t beat up on Russia, had not once called me and told me what to say.”
Haley becomes especially visible these days as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson maintains an unusually low profile. Politico reported Monday that “her ability to navigate the treacherous waters of the Trump administration” has generated buzz about her possibly succeeding Tillerson at State.
In one speech she declared: “For those that don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.”
She meant other nations, presumably.