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Six Takeaways From Nikki Haley’s Talk on Trump, Russia, and More

The ambassador to the UN and former South Carolina governor discussed her boss’s social media account, the advice she got from Henry Kissinger, and relations with North Korea with David Axelrod at the U. of C.

Nikki Haley sits down with David Axelrod, February 22, 2018, at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics   Photo: University of Chicago Institute of Politics

Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, delivered remarks about the role of the United States in the UN at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics last night, in her first visit to a college campus. Haley joined Institute of Politics founder David Axelrod in a discussion afterward about foreign affairs, Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and the school shooting in Florida.

Haley addressed foreign affairs with North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Russia, striking a firm tone when discussing US relations with each country. “The history of the United States at the United Nations is a mixture of idealism and realism. The UN was created by both impulses,” said Haley. “Since its founding, American attitudes toward the UN have shifted between idealism and realism.” As UN Ambassador, Haley says she tries to focus on “showing value in the UN to the American people.”

Before taking on her current position as UN Ambassador, Haley was elected as the first female governor of South Carolina in 2010. She joined the President Trump’s cabinet and National Security Council in 2017.

On Trump’s Twitter account and foreign affairs—

“This clearly is a president who likes social media,” said Haley of the president’s Twitter account, which makes her job “interesting.” Haley pointed out that diplomats to the UN take the president’s tweets seriously. Haley said Trump asked if he should call Kim Jong-un “rocket man” in his speech before the UN in September of last year after giving him the nickname on Twitter and decided to go for it because it was “catchy.”

On Russia’s involvement with the election—

“We have to very clear, the Russians did meddle in our election,” said Haley. “They didn’t change the vote, what they did was they tried to influence the narrative.” She said Russia’s use of technology to meddle in democratic elections is “a new kind of warfare.”

Axelrod noted the difference in Haley’s comments on Russia’s involvement in the election and President Trump’s lack of acknowledgement in election meddling. When asked why President Trump would not call out the Russians for trying to interfere in the election she said, “you would have to ask the president. I have never had a problem beating up on Russia.”

On refugees and immigrants—

Haley discussed the Syrian Civil War and chemical attacks by the Assad regime. Axelrod noted the high number of refugees the conflict had created and asked what the United States’ role is in aiding Syrian refugees. “I think the United States always wants to welcome refugees,” said Haley. “At this time in the world, safety and security for the American people is the president’s top priority.”

Haley called immigration “the fabric of America,” pointing to her own parents’ immigration from India. “We are also a country of laws,” she said, again noting that safety and security is the top concern for vetting immigrants.

On political discourse—

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once encouraged Haley to “put yourself in your advisory’s shoes” whenever negotiating with foreign diplomats. It’s a lesson she applied to the current political discourse in the U.S., calling the ability to understand the perspective of another “a skill I believe is lost in America today.”

“Far too often we are inclined to see those who disagree with us as not just wrong, but pure evil. In the last year, working in-depth in foreign relations, I have seen true evil, and it is not in the American political system.” Haley pointed to human rights violations in South Sudan, Syria and North Korea as “evil.” “Your political opponents are not your enemies.”

On relations with North Korea—

Haley cited the sanctions passed at the UN as a successful measure in easing the tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. She further pointed to the North Korea’s public relations efforts at the Olympics as proof that the sanctions have been effective. Her optimism was short lived, though, as she acknowledged that “we still have a irresponsible leader in charge of a nuclear program.” And while Haley said that nobody wants to go to war, that “all options are always on the table with North Korea.”

On mass shootings—

The night ended on a somber tone as Haley recalled her reaction to the 2015 Charleston shooting during her term as governor of South Carolina. Haley urged the audience to have a holistic approach when discussing how to prevent mass shootings. “Everybody’s quick to say to say one thing is going to fix it and that’s just not right.”

On the high school protestors response to push for new legislation on gun control Haley said that, “I love seeing them use the power of their voice.”

Watch the whole conversation here:


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