Days after America’s first military strikes on Syria the only coherent message we are getting from the Trump administration is that they have no clear policy beyond their initial attack against the Syrian government.
As U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley took to the Sunday talk shows to present the administration’s contradictory views on everything from whether the U.S. will pursue regime change in Syria to the battle against ISIS being “coordinated somewhat with the Syrian regime,” a new, and albeit confused, voice emerged as President Trump’s latest explainer-in-chief: Nikki Haley.
Despite not having any idea of what the U.S. policy on Syria is, or is going to be, Haley went on show after show explaining and praising President Trump’s actions, almost succeeding at making Donald Trump sound like a brilliant military strategist.
“What happened this week was really one of the president’s finest hours,” Haley said on CNN’s State of the Union. “He wanted to know exactly what the facts and evidence was. He wanted to know what the options were, what the risks were, and the political strategy and solution side of it. After all of that he made a very, you know, strong decision and I think it was one that was very good for the world,” Haley added.
One would hope that before deciding to make any military strike on any country the president of the United States would want to know “exactly what the facts and evidence was” prior to making a “strong decision” that was apparently “very good for the world.”
But the manner and tone in which Haley presented Trump’s response to Syria’s recent chemical attacks made him sound like Superman in a manner reminiscent of the White House’s former Queen of Spinning: Kellyanne Conway.
Just like Conway would be tasked to take over the cable news airwaves on behalf of President Trump to push for anything from “alternative facts” to “fake news,” Haley has a similar job of spinning facts to make the administration, and especially the president, look strong and in control.
Although we have yet to see if Haley’s skills at pivoting and distracting are as strong as Conway’s, her ability to cope with answering difficult questions on complex foreign policy issues made it clear that much like Conway, Haley, too is a master at being able to respond like a true Stepford Wife.
This became clear when Haley was asked specifically about Trump’s hypocrisy when it comes to Syrian refugees. She struggled to vindicate how Trump could talk about ordering the Syria strikes after being moved by pictures of “beautiful babies” killed in a chemical bombing, yet still be so strongly opposed to admitting Syrian refugees, many of whom are women and children, into the US.
“What this president has done is said, ‘Prove to me that you are vetting these people properly. And if you are vetting them properly, then we will resume where we are. But until then, you have to prove to me that these people are being vetted in a way that we’re not putting American citizens at risk,’” Haley said on NBC’s Meet The Press. “And so what he did was, I think, that there were those countries that we knew that there were problems, that we couldn’t vet. And that’s key. You can’t vet. You don’t know who you’re letting in. You don’t know if there’s any sort of bad intentions there. And so what you’re seeing is the president’s being very cautious with that.”
Although Haley managed to come up with an answer, much like Conway, when you go back and try to make sense of what she actually said, it makes no sense. The U.S. finally takes military action on Syria, something Trump was previously completely opposed to, for humanitarian reasons, but the administration is still sticking with their hardline on Syrian refugees resettling in America because we cannot be sure if those same refugees have “any sort of bad intentions?”
In one breath, Haley reinforced Trump’s signature fear mongering of refugees escaping the very terror that apparently moved Trump enough to take action on Syria on behalf of those beautiful babies.
We are still talking about the same president who signed two executive orders halting refugee resettlement in the U.S. from Syria, correct?
The confusion only continued as questions over the administration and Syria got more specific. And this is when we saw Haley become more and more like Conway.
When Jake Tapper asked Haley if regime change in Syria was the official policy of the United States on CNN’s State of the Union, Haley answered by trying to list the administration’s multiple priorities by rambling about how we have to get Assad out, defeat ISIS, get the Iranian influence out, before moving towards a political solution.
But then Haley moved away from focusing on what the US policy is completely, and moved onto the concept of thoughts.
“So, what I think you’re seeing is, this isn’t about policy or not,” she told Tapper. “This is about thoughts. And so, when you look at the thoughts, there is no political solution that any of us can see with Assad at the lead.”
The pivot is eerily similar to how Conway defended Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter earlier this year to CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
“Why don’t you believe him? Why is everything taken at face value?” Conway asked Cuomo. “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this, and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”
So as the Trump Administration continues to try to find their political footing in Washington and figure out exactly what they stand for, at home and abroad, amidst ongoing investigations into Russia ties and ethical concerns over Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s roles in the White House, the one thing that we can count on is that there is a new spinster tasked with doing what Conway was doing so well until she wasn’t.
Is Nikki Haley the new explainer-in-chief? If like Conway, a big part of Haley’s job is trying to make the public focus on the abstract instead of the specific, then the answer is yes.
Guess it’s only a matter of time before we see Haley also hawking the First Daughter’s clothing line on TV.