Former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has joined the 2024 Republican presidential race as the latest “I’m not Donald Trump” candidate.
Which is interesting, because the only reason anybody outside of the Palmetto State has ever heard of Mrs. Haley is because Mr. Trump hired her to be his ambassador to the United Nations. It’s an awkward dance with a porcupine, especially if it was the porcupine who brung you to the dance in the first place.
But it sure will be entertaining to watch. It will be the Freudian primary campaign. An Oedipal fight for people like Mrs. Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis against the Dark Force Who Created Them.
As previously noted, there will be the moment in this glorious primary where Mr. DeSantis is splayed back on a metal catwalk in space with his lightsaber spiraling into eternity and Mr. Trump crouched over him in shiny leather and a cape, saying, “Ron, I am your father!”
What will be that scene between Mrs. Haley and her political father?
Maybe they meet on a stormy afternoon at Lake Tahoe. Mr. Trump embraces her and kisses her on the cheek one last time. And then, while gripping at the base of her neck, looks into her eyes.
“Nikki, you’re nothing to me now. You’re not a daughter, you’re not a friend. I don’t want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you at the hotels, I don’t want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won’t be there. You understand?”
Please, dear Lord, let this primary season last forever!
Part of what will make the fast-approaching Oedipal primary season so damned entertaining is the relative humorlessness of people like Mr. DeSantis and Mrs. Haley. Each of them would certainly be a vast improvement over the current occupant of the White House Mausoleum.
But neither of them is terribly funny. Even in the best comedies, not everybody can be a comedic star. The more earnest and serious the co-stars, the more hilarious Mr. Trump can be.
And never forget the misfortune that befalls anyone who tries to be funnier than Mr. Trump. Just ask Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and his medium-sized hands. It’s like trying to out-funny Don Rickles at a celebrity roast.
Not going to happen. You will lose. Unless, of course, you carry the magic that will kill the king.
And I am thinking that Mr. Trump‘s former U.N. ambassador isn’t carrying that kind of magic.
Sure, Mrs. Haley is in her prime. But what is she running for? What does she offer, other than not being Donald Trump? Other than not being 75 years old? She delivered sharp, spanking speeches to Iran, Russia and China at the United Nations for grown-ups?
OK, fine. When you have the American flag behind you, anybody can give a sharp, spanking speech. But trust me, it ain’t you they’re scared of. It’s the 11 aircraft carrier groups floating around the world flying that same flag.
It’s like a baby lion in the reeds proudly squeaking out baby roars that chase off the pack of hyenas — oblivious to his giant, fearsome mother quietly crouched behind him.
The problem for Mrs. Haley is that anyone who excels at the United Nations for grown-ups will pretty much excel nowhere else. It’s why these people invented “think tanks.” They even had to make one for President Biden — made in China, of course.
It’s because people who excel at the United Nations for grown-ups are bureaucratic nerds. They talk about rules. They lecture about world order. They threaten wars.
True leaders, on the other hand, have vision and shape the future. They are not conformists.
Mrs. Haley is a hopeless conformist. In her eyes, there is no problem that cannot be fixed by more bureaucracy.
As candidate for president, her very first proposal for fixing the country? A new set of bureaucratic rules. Term limits, age limits and a “cognitive test” for politicians.
“It’s time for a new generation of leaders,” she says. “I’m calling for term limits on Congress and cognitive tests for politicians over 75. The status quo has to go.”
Oh, great. And who will be in charge of administering this new “cognitive test”? The Department of Education? Or maybe you can create a new federal Department of Political Cognitive Testing.
And, while we are at it, who writes this “cognitive test”? Who grades this “cognitive test”? Who enforces the results of this “cognitive test”? Mary Poppins?
That is the problem with people like Nikki Haley. They are the smiling Mary Poppinses of government bureaucracy.
She is the most popular substitute teacher in the whole country. But she is still a substitute teacher, squirming to be the best schoolmarm she can be. Her bag is full of teaching tricks and paperwork and enough rules to drive Huck Finn into Sunday school.
Unfortunately for her, it’s no way to get elected president of the United States.
• Charles Hurt is opinion editor at The Washington Times.