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.