United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has taken on the world in her tough-talking role at the U.N. On Tuesday, she showed her willingness to bring that same aggressive rhetoric to White House claims she acted out of turn Sunday when she predicted sanctions were coming against Russia.
After White House officials said Haley was wrong to say what she did, she fired off a succinct verbal strike of her own.
“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley said in a statement, the Washington Examiner reported.
On Sunday, she said sanctions were ready to hit as part of the Trump administration’s actions to respond to a Syrian chemical attack on a rebel village.
“You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. [Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn’t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use. And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point,” she told CBS‘ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“We wanted their friends Iran and Russia to know that we meant business and that they were going to be feeling the pain from this as well,” she said then.
But nothing happened. At first, the White House said it was considering options. Then on Tuesday, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Haley “got ahead of the curve” when she spoke about sanctions, NBC reported.
He then added the words that Haley found offensive.
“She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that,” Kudlow said, according to The New York Times.
After Haley’s no-nonsense reply, Kudlow changed his tune.
“She was certainly not confused,” he said. “I was wrong to say that — totally wrong.”
“As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box,” he said.
NBC portrayed the issue as one in which sanctions had been considered to accompany last Friday’s attack on Syrian chemical weapons sites. NBC, citing sources it did not name, said that the sanctions were not moved forward because the administration was trying to calibrate its post-attack actions to those taken by Russia. NBC also said there had been early week communications between the White House and Haley to get her to clarify her Sunday comments, which she would not do.
The difference between what Haley said and the administration did became a political talking point.
“It damages her credibility going forward and once again makes everyone, friend and foe alike, wonder that when the United States says something, approves something, calls for something, opposes something, is it for real?” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat. “Should we wait to see what Trump does the next day?”
One commentator drew a very different conclusion. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, writing on CNN, called Haley’s response to Kudlow “one for the ages.”
“Nikki Haley is not to be trifled with,” he wrote as he began his analysis of the incident.
“There’s roughly a 0% chance that Haley a) freelanced on the timing of those sanctions or b) was somehow confused by the proposed timing of their rollout,” he wrote.
“That indignity was big enough. But to then have Kudlow say, essentially, ‘Nikki is a nice person but the big boys have got this one,’ was a bridge too far for Haley. And understandably so,” he wrote.
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