Let’s start with Trump, who—on the heels of a judge threatening to kick him out of court at his own defamation trial on Wednesday—sent out a message on Truth Social saying (among other things): “A president of the United States must have full immunity, without which it would be impossible for him/her to properly function. Any mistake, even if well intended, would be met with almost certain indictment by the opposing party at term end.”
Never mind the fact that no previous president (other than Trump) has been indicted for “well-intended” mistakes on the job. And never mind the fact that, if followed to its logical conclusions, “full immunity” could allow a president—maybe even the current one—to get away with murder.
Trump’s campaign message is pretty simple: I’m running for dictator.
What job is Nikki Haley running for? That’s not so clear.
On the heels of her third-place finish in Iowa, Haley’s tentativeness was on full display in New Hampshire, when CNN’s Dana Bash teed up a great (and timely) question: “You’re the only woman in this race. How do you feel about your party’s frontrunner being held liable for sexual abuse?”
Haley did not swing for the fences. She barely made contact. “First of all, I haven’t paid attention to his cases,” Haley averred (which is either a lie—or evidence of political malpractice) and I’m not a lawyer. All I know is he’s innocent until proven guilty…”
What is so frustrating is that Haley shows flashes of brilliance. Sometimes, she performs so well that you are convinced she’s the future. But then, when the pressure is on, she folds like a cheap suit.
For reasons that escape me, she’s running like she’s up by two touchdowns and wants to protect her lead. But running out the clock makes no sense when you are, in fact, down by two touchdowns.
To win as an outsider (she is effectively running against an incumbent), it helps to play like an insurgent. As a thought experiment, I tried to imagine what Pat Buchanan might have said if he were faced with a similar question.
Having watched probably hundreds of hours of Buchanan, here’s my guess:
“The people of this state understand that Mr. Trump cannot beat Joe Biden in November. Mr. Trump already lost to Joe Biden, once. Everybody knows that. Mr. Trump is now facing four indictments—not to mention a jury finding him liable for sexual abuse. This man does not have discipline to beat Joe Biden—and he doesn’t have the character to lead the Republican Party into the future.”
I mean, that’s what you say over and over (and over and over) if you want to have a shot.
It turns out, that’s a big if.
Nikki isn’t hammering these points. Which has me wondering: Why is Nikki running? What is this all for?
Is she running because Trump lacks the character and is unfit to be president? Is she running because Trump will be tied up in court for the next few months, and thus, will not be able to run an effective campaign? Personally, I’d throw in both of these reasons—and the kitchen sink.
Whatever her message, why isn’t she hammering it? Could it be that she merely wants to be Trump’s veep?
This is something that I was initially worried about, but Nikki assuaged my concerns by attacking Trump early on in the very first Republican debate. Maybe I was the sucker.
For a variety of reasons, I still find it hard to believe that Trump would select Haley as his running mate (even though it might normally make perfect sense, politically). On the other hand, it seems like some of Trump’s most prominent MAGA supporters are legit worried about the possibility, so maybe she’s hedging her bets.
Maybe she’s actually running to win—but is too scared or timid to do what needs to be done? Honestly, this would also be a disqualifying scenario.
The bottom line is that Haley’s candidacy provides us with more questions than answers.
We are left with a very dangerous man who keeps saying crazier (and frankly, more appalling and terrifying) things as he keeps inching closer and closer to the Republican nomination.
Nikki Haley is the only Republican who has even the slimmest chance of stopping him. And yet, she’s pulling her punches when it matters most.
Republican voters deserve a choice. And if Nikki Haley wants to give them one—if she wants to keep her campaign alive past next Tuesday—she had better start providing one.