If forced to choose a Republican, I’d have to go with Nikki

I failed yet again to watch the GOP debate last night, but never fear — I found the above video clip from it.

At least, it sounds like it, based on the debate clips I heard on the radio today.

What if you actually had to vote for one of these people? What if there were no choice?

That unpleasant choice seems much clearer than it was a few weeks back.

The stupidest headline I saw today, from a Ramesh Ponnuru column, posed the question as though it were actually difficult to answer: “How to decide between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

Seriously? You think there’s a decision to be made? You think people would find it difficult? Of course not. The only possible choice would be Nikki Haley.

Is that an endorsement of Nikki? Absolutely not. I am 100 percent a Joe Biden man all the way. No one in any party comes within a mile of him.

But of course, for quite a few years, it was my job to preside over the drafting of editorial endorsements in both parties’ primaries. And I was always insistent that we couldn’t not choose. The voters had to make a choice, and so did we.

What if I had to do that now? Or what if I decided that my vote would be better used voting for the least nightmarish candidate in the GOP contest, since Joe seems likely to sail to the nomination?

Well, then, I’d vote for Nikki.

Oh, every negative thing I’ve every said about her is true. But she has seemed to get a little better each time I look at her. One of the main reasons I opposed her so often over the years was that she kept running for jobs for which she was completely unprepared. But then I’d watch her, and she would gradually get better.

For instance: She was a disaster in her first term as governor, as expected. I mean, really bad, with no notion how to exert leadership. But then, well into her second term, she was notably better. And she had a really fine moment in leading South Carolina to do what I had been shouting for governors and legislators to do for 20 years — take down that flag. (Yeah, I know a lot of people want to dismiss that as not really taking moral leadership — but that’s complicated enough that we’ll have to discuss it separately.)

In other words, by the time she left the governor’s office, she had grown more or less to finally be qualified for the job. And what happens then? Suddenly, she’s the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Of course, no one thought for a minute that she was in any way, shape or form prepared for that job. Well, she had one asset: As I’ve said many times, Nikki’s superpower is that she makes a very good first impression. Being able to present yourself well is good. Trouble was, aside from that rather superficial “qualification,” she had nothing to offer in the field of foreign policy. No training, no experience, and no ideas to offer.

Even Donald Trump, who offered her the job, wasn’t blind enough to think she was qualified. But he didn’t give a damn. His only motivation was to reward Henry McMaster, the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse him, by making him governor.

But here’s the thing… if you listen to her talk foreign policy in these debates, she may not be ready to write a doctoral thesis on international policy, but she’s light years closer to understanding America’s role in the world and how to meet it than anyone else on that stage. And is even farther ahead of the guy who never shows up for the debates.

So she did learn something, which is more than you ever see from the rest of these people. When she was a dewy-eyed young legislative back bencher, I was happy to endorse her a couple of times because I thought she had some promise — if only she would take the time to learn a few things (such as how idiotic the phrase “run government like a business” is). But before she could qualify herself for the job she had, she kept running for the next brass ring. At least since then, she has learned a few things.

And as I’ve told you, I congratulate her on her willingness to turn away from the culture wars. You know, using beautiful words such as “consensus.” When she does that, it reminds my why I thought she was promising in the House.

Still, “President Nikki Haley” is a combination that causes me to shudder, no doubt about it. I could write a post several times as long as this one detailing why. But if you make me choose from that field, she’s now well ahead of my former reluctant choice, Chris Christie.

For what that’s worth…

Mind you, I never for a moment forget the darker moments…

35 thoughts on “If forced to choose a Republican, I’d have to go with Nikki

  1. Pat

    There were two things I liked about Gov. Haley: taking down the flag and appointing Bobby Hitt.
    She turned out to be a better governor than I expected. Out of those on the stage, she’s my pick for the Republican nomination. I didn’t watch and don’t plan to watch.
    Asa Hutchinson hasn’t dropped out yet.

  2. Ken

    For someone who complains anytime others fantasize about an alternative to Biden, it’s astonishing how much time and “ink” is being spilled on fantasy presidential face-offs and the fantasy of Haley being selected the Republican nominee. I understand that we’re in the fantasy phase of the campaign season, when almost anything seems possible, but that particular fantasy is just that: fantasy. And it’s way past time that we look the striking realities we’re facing squarely in the eye.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, it’s not about fantasies. It’s quite the opposite. I approach politics realistically.

      There’s no question whatsoever that the only person running for president who is qualified is the incumbent.

      But a career spent as a close observer of politics has convinced me of one thing for sure: You have to be someone who wishes away facts not to acknowledge that anyone who gains the nomination of either major party has more or less a 50 percent chance of becoming president.

      So, if you care deeply about the country — and I do — you want the least bad candidate in the party opposite your own preferred candidate to be that other party’s nomination.

      Ideally, you want a situation as good as we had in 2008. I was perfectly happy having either Obama or McCain win that one. And I don’t think it would have been terrible for Romney to have won in 2012 — although I greatly preferred Obama.

      Now, the very fact that the GOP is so profoundly, dangerously insane makes it more important than ever to think about who is the LEAST worst. I can’t affect what happens, but I like to know in my own mind who that least-bad option is. And in a way, it’s a more strenuous mental exercise than deciding between good and better.

      It just occurred to me that yet another way of measuring how barking mad the GOP is today is to compare this situation to 1980.

      It was a similar year in terms of who I liked. Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden may be the two most likable presidents of my lifetime. And when Reagan beat Jimmy, it was the most disastrous thing to happen in politics in that same lifetime, from my perspective.

      However, there were several better candidates on the GOP side. If some genie had said to me, “Jimmy’s going to lose, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But in light of that, which Republican would you choose?”… That would have been easy. I’d have chosen George H. W. Bush. And if I couldn’t have him, I’d have picked Howard Baker.

      There are no sound candidates on that side now. So I think, who is LEAST bad? And it takes more “ink,” as you put it, to explain why ANY of these people would be the least bad…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It wasn’t Atwater’s “Southern Strategy.” You have to go back to about 1968, and look at people like Harry Dent (incidentally, a college classmate of my Dad’s).

          Atwater’s innovation was simply using nastier tactics, such as negative ads. That started getting big in 1982…

          1. Robert Amundson

            I said Atwater’s Southern Strategy still divides the Country.

            “You start out in 1954 by saying, “nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say that — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing.

            Atwater was interviewed by Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. Lamis published the interview without using Atwater’s name in his 1984 book “The Two-Party South.” Fifteen years later—and eight years after Atwater passed away from cancer—Lamis republished the interview in another book using Atwater’s name. For seven years no one paid much attention. Then the New York Times‘ Bob Herbert, a bit of an Atwater obsessive, quoted it in an October 6, 2005.

            [edited — basically, I let Bob use that word once — instead of six times — to make his point]

          2. Pat

            It’s disturbing to sometimes read some young politician hopeful say that Atwater is his idol and he wants to model his career after him. I’ve read at least two quotes along that line. He wasn’t all that’s wrong with the republicans, but he was certainly part of it.

  3. DougT

    Would never vote for a Republican, but at least Nikki understands why it is vitally important for the U.S. to support Ukraine.

  4. bud

    Brad looks at this the wrong way. The Republican party is just Nazi light so there is absolutely no consideration for considering ANY of these people as some sort of fall back. Kind of like choosing between Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler. Isn’t that obvious by now?

    So how should a rational person vote in the primary? Nikki has the best chance to beat Biden so she cannot be considered in the primary. Trump seems like a much stronger candidate than I once thought so I probably won’t vote for him. Christie has no chance in the primary. His anti Trump rhetoric is highly unpopular. No need to waste a vote. Vivek? Please. I’d love to see him as the nominee. Won’t happen though. What a jerk. That leaves DeSantis. Given his extreme unlikability he seems beatable in the general. But apparently he’s also unlikable among Republicans. But really, does it matter? Trump will be the nominee barring some health issue. The worse his legal troubles get the better he polls. All his idiotic gaffes, (Biden will start WW2??) So lets quit all this hand wringing and move on to the general. The Dems should spend most of their effort talking about abortion. That is THE winning issue.

    1. Robert Amundson

      If Nazi equates to Authoritarian Rule, I agree. The Wars on Crime/Drugs and Terror have terrorized our children. Evil exists, and I wish so much there was a peaceful way to defeat Evil. Captain Warthen would understand if I said “That’s above my Pay Grade, Sir.”

      Army will play in their “Dogface Soldiers” uniforms, which pay tribute to the 3rd Infantry Division (Iraq), with the division’s famous mascot “Rocky the bulldog,” a Walt Disney creation, appearing on the helmet.

      Navy honors our Silent Service; the entire uniform is flooded with Eclipse Navy (a very dark shade of navy blue) to mimic the covert design of a submarine hull. The overall design was intended to be simple and utilitarian to convey the stealth purposes of a submarine’s design.

      I hate war so much. So sometimes we just knock some heads, to make our heads harder.

      Go Navy.

    2. Doug Ross

      People who use terms like Nazi or fascist to describe the party they don’t like should not be taken seriously…

      I’m more interested in hearing who Brad would vote for when Biden announces he won’t run in a month or so. Kamala, Newsom, or Kennedy?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        As I’ve explained over and over, the only hope for the country is for Joe to run, and win. There are no acceptable alternatives. None at all.

        Of course, if his health failed and he was forced to drop out, other alternatives would immediately emerge. The kinds of people who show interest NOW are automatically disqualifying themselves…

        If anything as horrible as that happens, get back to me. We’ll know something then…

        1. Doug Ross

          I’ve come to appreciate Hunter Biden more as I think about him . He’s the ultimate libertarian.. drugs, prostitution, hating to pay taxes.. maybe he can run against Joe as a third party candidate?

          1. Barry

            At least if he ran for office, it would finally make some sense to attack him.

            It never made sense to attack him as a private citizen, especially given Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s corrupt behavior working right out of the White House.

            1. Doug Ross

              Attack apparently is the term used for holding people responsible when they have committed multiple felonies involving tax evasion of millions of dollars, using crack while owning a weapon, and denying paternity of a child you had with a stripper.

              Weren’t you the one who was outraged, OUTRAGED about some random couple”s Christian hypocrisy? And yet he Hunter’s illegal activity is somehow not as relevant?

              1. Barry

                Hunter isn’t trying to tell me how to live Doug.

                If he broke the law, he can go to jail. But he’s not campaigning for his dad. He’s not trying to provide answers to political issues or anything else. So I don’t care about his views or his hypocrisy. That’s between him and law enforcement.

                The nuts in Florida having threesomes while trying to ram views down the throats of other people are trying to tell people how to live. Bridget Zieglar is involved in states like South Carolina and schools boards right in the Columbia area.

                So yes- I care about that because I have a teen daughter in those schools.

                Can you tell me what local issue Hunter Biden is involved in? Of course you can’t.

                I know you don’t see a difference. But many people do.

      2. Barry

        “People who use terms like Nazi or fascist to describe the party they don’t like should not be taken seriously…”

        I don’t really use those terms. I can see why people would describe many current Republican efforts as fascist.

        But Conservatives use the terms to describe Democrats all the time.

        But I’ve never worried for a second if someone on the blog here takes me seriously. That’s as irrelevant as a can opener on the end of a fishing pole.

      3. bud

        There was a time when referring to one of our two major parties as “Nazi light” would have been a ridiculous and inappropriate rant. Not anymore. Donald Trump has consumed the Republican party in a cultish and very dangerous way. His use of terms borrowed from the Nazis like “vermin” demonstrate the very real nature of this threat. Neocons like Liz Cheney who I once abhorred get it. Mitt Romney, I man I once dismissed as a privileged enabler of plutocracy get it. But far too many folks in the GOP like Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham are fully on board. And it’s not just that Trump is some sort of interloper as Brad suggests, Trump is just the tip of the spear. Trumpism IS the Republican Party. And Trumpism is nothing short of Nazi Light. And he almost certainly WILL be the nominee. Time to wake up from this fantasy that some semi-normal old school Republican will emerge like the Phoenix and save the day. Hopefully one day we can go back to the days of arguing about the capital gains tax and military spending in a civil, respectful manner. But this is not that time. For this election cycle I am a one issue voter – defeat the Trump cult party.

        1. Doug Ross

          We literally had Trump as President for four years and please point me to when there were concentration camps, invasions of neighboring countries (not the ongoing run of the mill “war” on “terror”), and brownshirts rounding up gays, Jews, etc… it’s as foolish as the Republicans who called Obama a Communist. It just demonstrates how easily people can be brainwashed by their social media and “news” sources. There’s a zero percent chance that you would use the term Nazi to define Trump without your brainwashing.

          He’s a self aggrandizing idiot and a liar. He’s not a fascist, racist, or misogynist. Democrats have completely devalued those words with their insanity.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Let’s take it on your terms, Doug. Shouldn’t we do all we legitimately can to prevent “a self aggrandizing idiot and a liar” from being the most powerful man in the world?

            1. Doug Ross

              Sure.. first thing I’d do is NOT run a mentally declining elderly guy against him.. or if the mentally declining elderly guy is going to be the candidate, then do everything to prove he’s not in mental decline rather than hide him in the basement…

              Let him do a one hour interview without notes with an interviewer who won’t feed him softball questions. That would do more to reverse his sinking approval ratings even within his own party than trying to call Trump a Nazi will .

              I don’t want either of them based on their performance.

          2. Barry

            I think he is a racist and a fascist sympathizer. He also was found liable for sexual abuse – not on social media- not on cable news – not by fellow politicians- but in court.

  5. Doug Ross

    How ineffective would a president have to be trailing Trump in every poll in the 7 swing states that will decide the election in 2024? These people lived through the first Trump term and three years later are saying, “we’d rather go back to that”. Another indication of why I believe Biden will be dropping out early next year

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You’re misinterpreting it.

      The fact that Trump remains a threat is simply a reflection of the madness in the electorate. It hasn’t gone away, and in fact continues to do worse. And it has very, very little to do with any actual, rational assessment of the two candidates. We could be looking at a contest between Abraham Lincoln and the devil himself, and the devil would probably be doing well in the polls…

      The only way Joe drops out is if his health forces him to — which is always a consideration at his age. He would never do so as a political calculation, and no one who cares about the country would want him to. Why? Because of the factor I keep repeating over and over and over — there’s no one else.

      We know you like Tulsi. But a) she’s not running, and b) most people don’t like her the way you do. She’s not a factor. And no one else is, either.

      That’s why Joe, who has done more to earn retirement than anyone in our political history except maybe FDR, can’t quit…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        In case Doug wonders why his response doesn’t appear, it’s because it started with him calling me a liar.

        If you’re wondering what violates my civility policy, there’s an example for you….

  6. Doug Ross

    If you want to see the level of fear that is gripping liberals now with the idea that Joe Biden is going to lose to Trump, just watch this supercut of talking heads claiming all sorts of doomsday scenarios that they say will happen if Trump wins . The level of derangement is off the charts. They can’t make any case FOR Biden so they have to go scorched Earth against Trump and hope they can scare just enough people to drag Joe over the finish line.


      1. Doug Ross

        I lived thru 2016-2020.

        Talk about liars. I don’t want Trump or Biden. Saying Trump isn’t Hitler isn’t saying everything will be fine. Until we get rid , pelosi, McConnell, Schumer, AOC, and the rest of the corrupt politicians it won’t matter who is in the White House.

  7. Ralph Hightower

    Senator Graham (T-SC) said it best when he said “The Republican party has gone bat-sh*t crazy.”

    I used to be an independent voter, but Trump turned me to a one-party voter. Both parties screwed up in 2016. The Democrats chose Hillary because it was “her turn”, while the Republicans chose an unqualified, temperamental person who “leads” using fear and intimidation.

    This is what I think happened that led Trump to run. “Father, when I grow up, I want to be president.” Trump responded “Here, hold my beer! Watch this!”

    That phrase “hold my beer” is often the last words is often someone’s last words before getting an entry in the Darwin Awards website.


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