Political appointees serve at the pleasure of the President and can be fired at any time if they lose his faith. Donald Trump, known worldwide for “firing” people during his time as a real estate tycoon turned reality TV star, has certainly not held back from dismissing his own appointees. Indeed, the rookie Republican’s penchant for burning through White House staff has become fodder for late night comedy. However, in a rare occurrence, a well-known political appointee of Trump’s is standing up against his administration and risking the commander-in-chief’s wrath.
Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, is Trump’s tough-talking U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. When brief confusion erupted over whether or not Russia would see more sanctions from the United States, the White House staff alleged that Haley had been “confused” about the issue. “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” snapped Haley, publicly standing up for herself. Having delivered a rare retort to Trump, Haley is having a moment: Could the bold Carolinian be a shoo-in for higher office?
While some pundits have opined that Trump himself will likely applaud Haley’s candor, others wonder if the president is willing to tolerate a dissenter within his ranks. If Haley receives accolades from Democrats and never-Trump Republicans, other embattled members of Trump’s administration may seek to boost their own profiles by publicly rebuking the president and his allies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long been abused by his boss, may seek to generate some positive buzz by telling Trump to ease the public rhetoric against Comey and Mueller.
Obviously, Trump doesn’t want his other appointees feeling emboldened to seek their own headlines for talking back. However, sidelining Nikki Haley could be more trouble than it’s worth, especially for a president who has long been accused of misogyny. Trump’s got a gender problem, and needs to show conservative women that he’s not afraid of strong, outspoken female leadership. Ignoring Haley in favor of “yes men,” especially now that the media is watching and waiting for it, could hurt Trump. This is all while more moderate Republicans are contemplating challenging him for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination.
Analysts suggest that Trump should ease his rhetoric and avoid provoking a power struggle. However, Trump believes that his brash rhetoric is the reason he’s in office in the first place, seeming not to know when to strategically hold back. His opponents are hoping that he will lash back at Haley, thus making him appear insecure and hostile. Calm is the name of the game. It appears that this stretch of the presidency will measure how capable Trump is at remaining calm under pressure.
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