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Nikki Haley Makes The Worst Possible Argument Against Trump

Haley is telling voters to support her because ‘rightly or wrongly, chaos follows’ Trump, but it’s absurd to think a different GOP president won’t also face an utterly lawless and well-coordinated attack on his legitimate use of power.


During a speech in South Carolina late last month, Haley trotted out a rather interesting line of attack against Trump: “And the truth of it all — and this is another hard truth — I believe President Trump was the right president at the right time. I was proud to serve America in his administration, and I agree with a lot of his policies. But the truth is, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. You know I’m right. Chaos follows him. We have too much division in this country and too many threats around the world to be sitting in chaos once again.”

These were not tossed-off remarks. Byron York, the only political reporter who seems to have grasped the significance of the remark, notes that Haley has been road-testing some variation of the “chaos” line since October, and it appears it’s a regular part of her stump speech. York has done a typically thorough and thoughtful analysis of this, including why Haley’s line might ruffle some feathers among Republicans.

Now, certainly, there are many Republicans out there who might be inclined to agree with a facile reading of this line. There’s hardly a Trump voter out there who hasn’t at least privately lamented Trump saying inflammatory things that detract from his actual policy accomplishments.

But ultimately, Haley’s line about “chaos” spectacularly misreads the problem and, along with it, the sentiment of a lot of Trump voters she needs to win over. When she says “the truth is, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him,” the word “wrongly” in that sentence pretty much gives up the entire game. The biggest source of chaos in Trump’s presidency wasn’t mean tweets; it was the entire Washington establishment and administrative state breaking laws and violating norms both to impede his policies and attempt to throw him out of office. This was, indeed, very, very wrong and exposed a rot so deep that the number one requirement of any future Republican president is dismantling this corruption that threatens the foundations of the republic.

Let’s recap what the “chaos” in the Trump administration looked like, shall we? Starting before Trump was elected, the FBI was investigating and wiretapping the guy — an investigation that continued well after he was elected. The FBI’s “sources” for their investigation of Trump were treasonously colluding with Russia to steal an election. These included, among other standout individuals, a paid informant at the heart of multiple political scandals who had been apparently lying on his resume for decades and a report from… Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

The man responsible “for 80% of the ‘intel’” in that report was a Russian national who the FBI had previously conducted an inconclusive counterintelligence investigation into, and it turns out that disreputable Russian got much of his information on Trump’s ties to Russia from a lawyer for… Hillary Clinton. And given such quality information, it’s hard to imagine that an FBI lawyer would get caught manufacturing evidence on warrant applications just to keep spying on a man who was a legitimately elected president.

Nonetheless, the entire media establishment treated this obviously political sham investigation with grave seriousness and even gave themselves awards for regurgitating politically motivated leaks on a story that was back-to-front false. This false information dominated the news throughout Trump’s presidency. It triggered a two-year investigation where the special counsel knew from the beginning that there was no substance to the accusations and instead tried and failed to mount a case for obstruction of an investigation that was baseless to begin with.

That was all pretty chaotic, right? And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We could walk through the events of the first Trump impeachment, where the case against Trump was so open and shut Congressional Democrats had all the witnesses testify behind closed doors; the rapid emergence of a censorship industrial complex sponsored by federal agencies and law enforcement; the open endorsement of violent BLM riots that destroyed city centers by Democratic politicians; billionaires funding liberal get-out-the-vote experts to infiltrate local nonpartisan election offices; the self-described “conspiracy” and “cabal” that worked to “control the flow of information” and “fortify” our elections in 2020 by flooding every state with mail-in ballots. By the way, you’re an election-denying bigot if you think said ballots encourage fraud.

You don’t have to like Trump, and you can, as I have on many occasions, acknowledge that he is frequently his own worst enemy. And yet it is beyond obvious that the mere suggestion that “rightly or wrongly” Trump invited this utterly lawless and well-coordinated assault on American institutions, up to and including the endorsement of actual violence, is offensive to anyone who didn’t spend the last seven years in a coma. And further, for all the retconning that has gone into making the horrible events of Jan. 6 justify all the anti-Trump establishment’s anti-American and criminal behavior beforehand, what does it say that even Republicans such as Haley want to bulldoze past the fact that all this “chaos” happened because a bunch of influential people had a series of malicious tantrums because they couldn’t accept the results of the 2016 election?

The thing is, acknowledging that much of what happened during Trump’s presidency was unjust and damaging to the country need not be an endorsement of Trump. Ramaswamy and DeSantis have both made the case that they’re better suited to address corruption exposed by Trump while acknowledging the campaign against him during his presidency was an alarming subversion of American rights, norms, and laws. (Similarly, it is telling how a figure such as Biden who has brazenly lied about his own corruption — indeed, the first Trump impeachment was held behind closed doors so Republicans could not publicly ask very obvious and damning questions about whether Trump’s inquiry into the Biden family’s corrupt business in Ukraine was warranted — is so obviously insulated from “chaos” by the same people who instigated it under Trump.)

DeSantis and Ramaswamy have at least campaigned in a way that acknowledges this basic reality: For a lot of voters, the number one issue facing the country is the fact that American democracy is being held hostage by a broad array of forces that will use violence and information warfare, in addition to every hidden lever of administrative, legal, and cultural power to punish Americans if they vote for someone they don’t like. Never mind that even mild populist and rhetorical pushback on issues such as interventionist foreign policy or deliberate toleration of mass illegal immigration is cause for punitive measures.

You can pretend to wave away the existence of these insidious forces as being only applicable to Trump, but without exposing them and holding them accountable, no serious person believes they won’t cause more “chaos” to whoever is the next politician that threatens them. The whole point is to amass enough coordinated power that you can both artificially create chaos and then be in a position to take it away, depending on which suits your purposes of incentivizing voters.

Accordingly, if Haley’s strategy for winning in 2024 is to sell voters on the idea she can restore calm and normalcy by ignoring recent history and simply moving on… well, perhaps that speaks to the fact she’s much less threatening to our pernicious establishment than other Republicans. There are certainly major issues, such as foreign policy, where Haley is obviously more in sync with the military-industrial complex than Trump and other GOP candidates.

But it’s hard to imagine that there’s much of an appetite for a candidate who is in denial about what’s happening, much less amenable to these insidious political forces. Haley could be much clearer about the “rightly or wrongly” distinction. There’s a case to be made that the way Trump genuinely subjects himself to criticism means he’s perhaps not the best candidate to deal with the corruption he himself was wrongly subjected to, and DeSantis and Ramaswamy have made this argument to varying degrees.

By contrast, Haley’s argument that removing Trump is the way to get chaos out of politics only rewards the people most responsible for creating the chaos to begin with. And it’s a damning rationale for a candidacy that’s clearly­­ still in search of principles and purpose.

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