How Nikki Haley charmed me

That was my compromise headline, by the way. My first thought was “How Nikki Haley seduced me,” and boy, that would have driven my traffic up and helped me sell some ads. It would have been a perfectly fine use of figurative language. But I decided against it. I’m not THAT anxious to sell ads (if I were, I’d spend some time on the phone selling, and you’d see more of them). Then I thought of, “How Nikki Haley fooled me,” but that would have been TOO prosaic. So I went with the compromise.

And what it means is this: Folks, I know how attractive (as a candidate, I mean) Nikki Haley can be. I mean, she had me at “I’m running against Larry Koon” way back in 2002, and she totally pulled me into her orbit when she told me of how his redneck supporters were attacking her ethnicity, causing me to write an impassioned defense of her and condemnation of them. (I have this atavistic impulse toward knight errantry. It’s what causes me to have a notion that the United States should ride about the world slaying ogres in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia and the like. And if I can actually, literally defend a lady in distress — well, all the better.)

Being on Nikki’s side made us feel good about ourselves. She came across as an absolute paragon of political virtue taking on the entrenched interests, and she did it well. At the time, we didn’t know that as she was advocating “running government like a business,” she was failing to pay taxes on time for the business for which she was the accountant. We didn’t know she was parlaying her support of Lexington Medical Center getting an open-heart center into a $110,000-a-year job that didn’t require her to show up.

And most of all, we did not know that she — who chaired a subcommittee charged with coming up with regulations for the payday lending industry — would tap that industry for contributions to her employer’s cause.

Now that I do know those things, I’ve thought back a number of times to the portion of my last extended interview with her when she spoke of how she was stymied by her leadership and prevented from passing meaningful reform of payday lending. You will hear her speak knowledgeably and energetically about how her committee carefully researched the issue and came up with a bill she was proud of (one that would regulate, not eliminate, such lenders), only to see it cavalierly deep-sixed by her leadership.

It was, in retrospect, quite a performance, and I believed in it entirely. I believe in it now as I watch it. You probably will, too. Look at her face as I ask her to clarify — was it Harry Cato who killed your bill. Yes, she nods, with wide eyes, evincing reluctance at seeming to tell tales, then smiling winningly.

The thing is, it’s so convincing that I still believe that she was sincere. I mean, look at her. But that sincere young woman who spoke of how much she was learning as a novice legislator has been very little in evidence since she found “the power of her voice” as a Sarah-Palin-style demagogue who despises experience and nuance, and speaks almost entirely in bumper stickers.

The Nikki Haley on the video was … smarter than the one we hear today. And more believable. She was almost… wonkish. Definitely our kind of gal, the sort we’d be sure to have an editorial crush on.

And I still marvel over how she’s changed.

Bottom line… I have a lot of experience observing Nikki Haley. So when I tell people who just recently discovered her that she isn’t all that she seems, and that it would be a bad idea to elect her to higher office, my assessment has very deep roots. It took me a LONG time to realize just how problematic Nikki Haley was. And voters just haven’t had enough time with her. It’s like being a pilot — I’ve got a couple of thousand hours with this particular aircraft, and it’s hard to explain all that I’ve learned about her idiosyncracies to anyone who’s had less than a hundred.

Which is why I wish Election Day were a little farther off. Eventually, I believe everybody will see all the sides of Nikki Haley. But after Tuesday, it will be too late to help our state.

24 thoughts on “How Nikki Haley charmed me

  1. Kathryn Braun Fenner (Mrs. Stephen A.)

    Brad, if, in fact, you are appalled at the notion of Governor Nikki, why do you keep showcasing her finest hours, at least in the eyes of people who might ever vote for her? You can share your excuses for having promoted her early on AFTER the election.

  2. Brad

    Didn’t know I was doing that. But then, I don’t think on the level of the 30-second ad.

    I thought my points were self-evident:
    — Folks, I’m not somebody who misses what is appealing about Nikki. I liked her before you did.
    — But because I know her better than you do, and know more about her, I really DO have standing when I say that in the end, she would be awful as governor.
    — Her righteous-sounding statements today are pretty ironic in light of the way she has shamelessly used her influence to her own advantage, and even tapped this very industry she was trying to bring to heel.
    — Finally, Nikki has changed — not just in subtle ways, but in gross, obvious ways. The Nikki I endorsed back then was NOT the kind of person who mouths the populist, Sarah Palinesque platitudes today. She was not arrogant the way she is now. She did not talk about how “scared” the establishment is of her, and how “that’s a beautiful thing,” the Nikki version of Conan the Barbarian’s assessment of what is best in life: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

    What part of all that wasn’t clear the first time?

  3. Brad

    Basically, the sort of people who will simply watch one of these clips and say, “She seems nice; I think I’ll vote for her,” shouldn’t be reading this blog. We have TV for them.

    The point of blogging, for me, is to give people depth. To give them nuance, and to some extent complexity — even ambiguity. To show that the things you say in headlines are well-founded, and not just some party line or gut pronouncement.

    Blogs are, or should be, for people who want more…

  4. Brad

    Would you feel better if I followed each ambiguous posting with a litany of her sins?

    Actually, not a bad idea… very Catholic…

    And a Catholic idea would favor Vincent, wouldn’t it?

  5. kc

    Basically, the sort of people who will simply watch one of these clips and say, “She seems nice; I think I’ll vote for her,”

    Yeah, until she’s batted her long eyelashes at you in person, you really have no business forming an opinion of her . . .

  6. j

    Michael P comments! That must be a trick or some real treat!

    Joanne, you nailed Nimrata. From Sikhism, Nimrata means Humility. “Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the magic mantra.” Such sweet speech!

    Brad, have a good weekend and see you on TV Tues evening.

  7. Kathryn Braun Fenner (Mrs. Stephen A.)

    You could be Michael P. for Halloween.

    I’m saying that showing potentially undecided voters Nikki at her best is not the most responsible thing to do, but then how many undecided voters read your blog….

  8. Barry

    @ Brad – you should put a way to link some of your entries to facebook so I could share your entry to my facebook page.

  9. kittycatlover

    I’m thankful you are saying it Brad. I couldn’t agree with you more strongly.
    Ms. Haley is clearly wrong for SC.

  10. Elliott, South Carolina

    Thankfully, I’d never heard of Haley until the reports of her first-class travel came out when Sanford’s first-class airline tickets were reported. I don’t live in Lexington. I’d be mortified if I had ever endorsed her. How embarrassing!

  11. Mark Stewart


    I disagree. I believe lots of people look to Brad’s blog for the kind of incisive commentary that just doesn’t exist for lots of local issues. I learn something from every comment I read. Lots of people have interesting stuff to contribute. I didn’t even feel that “Fred” was without merit. (While Micheal P clearly was not interested in listening.)

  12. scout


    I think you can link to it manually on facebook just by copying and pasting the URL for the blog post. There are options to paste in a link like that on facebook. Can’t remember exactly how you make them appear. They are under the status line.

    I am working on convincing someone from work. Go. Sheheen!

  13. Barry

    Robo call today from Ms. Haley

    last line she spoke was

    “together we can take back our state”

    I thought – “from who?”

    Her guy is our Governor – Mark Sanford and has been for 8 years now. (yes, I admit I voted for him)

    Republicans control the House and Senate.

    Exactly who are we taking it back from?

  14. Brad

    That never makes any sense, they just like to say it. These are not people who think carefully what words me. These are not people who think carefully, period.

    And their way “thought” is going to have a big electoral victory tomorrow across the country.

    And because they don’t know what they’re doing, there will be an even BIGGER political backlash two years from now.

    And we’ll never get anything accomplished, until everybody wises up and stops playing this game…


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