I want to like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. I really do. After all, she is a fellow Indian American who has overcome a lot of barriers to become the nation’s youngest and her state’s first female governor. And I just finished reading her just-released memoir, “Can’t Is Not an Option,” in which Haley tries to humanize herself.
The initial portions of the book are the most interesting, where she recounts the slights and slurs that affected her family in the Deep South while she was growing up. She writes about being disqualified from a beauty pageant because she fell into no recognizable racial category. She discusses an incident when the cops were called on her parents who were simply making a purchase at a fruit stand. The reminders of her outsider status continued all the way to her campaign, when South Carolina state Senator Jake Knotts claimed she was a puppet controlled by a secret network of Sikhs and she received repeated hate calls. Even just this month, Time magazine asked her if she would give bigger tips to Sikh cab drivers when she was in New York City.
But certain things keep coming in the way of me thinking highly of her.
First, she has been a disaster for South Carolina, even by the low standards of her state.
“I believe she is the most corrupt person to occupy the governor’s mansion since Reconstruction,” John Rainey, a Republican fundraiser and powerbroker, told Corey Hutchins of The Nation. “I do not know of any person who ran for governor in my lifetime with as many charges against him or her as she has had that went unanswered.”
In The Nation story, Hutchins details her many missteps, ranging from questionable appointments and dodgy tax returns to lack of transparency and access. Astonishingly, Haley came to office on a platform of cleaning up South Carolina, a meme that she dedicates a separate chapter to in her book.
Even the National Review has expressed disappointment.
“It’s increasingly clear that many of the people who elected her are worried that because of either national distractions or an unwillingness to fully confront the power structure she ran against, she is becoming what last year she said she loathed—just another politician,” John Fund writes in the National Review Online.
Her terrible track record stands in opposition to her supposed idealism.
“The South Carolina State Ethics Commission will review Governor Nikki Haley's campaign finances to determine if the Republican violated state ethics rules,” McClatchy Newspapers reported this week. “If so, Haley most likely will face a fine of up to $14,000.”
Her own people don’t think she’s doing a good job. Her approval rating currently hovers at 35 percent. (In comparison, when Mark Sanford of Appalachian trail-fame was forced to leave office, he had an approval rating of almost 50 percent.)
And then there’s Haley’s extreme makeover.
Born in the Sikh religion, Haley converted to Christianity when she married a Methodist in 1996, but her wedding contained both Sikh and Christian ceremonies, and she regularly attended a Sikh temple even as a state representative, embracing both faiths. But once her religion became an issue in the South Carolina gubernatorial primaries, she loudly declared herself a Christian.
“My faith in Christ has a profound impact on my daily life and I look to Him for guidance with every decision I make,” she wrote on her campaign website. “God has blessed my family in so many ways and my faith in the Lord gives me great strength on a daily basis. Being a Christian is not about words, but about living for Christ every day.”
Of course, she, like anyone else, has a right to worship as she chooses, but it’s all so convenient.
Her politics have also been in keeping with her desperate attempts to placate the Republican base. Not surprisingly, she’s been a tea party favorite. Indeed, even with her luster dimmed a bit, she’s being touted as a potential VP candidate in 2016.
Meanwhile, her memoir and her book tour are getting poor press.
“Women don’t care about contraception,” Haley said on The View, causing an uproar. “They care about jobs and their families.”
The book itself has gotten a bad review from Kirkus Reviews, a noted trade publication.
“There’s scarcely a moment that approaches originality in these pages,” its website says. “Every note seems scripted, including her protestations that it’s Washington that keeps her from doing her job.”
And back in her home state, Haley’s book jaunt is attracting protesters.
"I think Nikki Haley is one of the worst governors in the country," Jonathan Edwards, who was demonstrating at one of her appearances, said, according to Patch.com. "I'm tired of having a governor taking side trips. We rank last in all measures of governance."
Maybe Haley should focus on these problems instead of writing self-serving books.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Aung San Suu Kyi’s Election Historic."
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