Nikki R. Haley. 2019. With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Even though I am a lifelong newsaholic and a retired federal economist, I seldom read political memoirs. Seminary inspired me; most politicians do not. However, when I heard that Nikki Haley offered talk show interviews to promote a memoir, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about her.
Why Nikki Haley?
Haley served as South Carolina’s first female governor and was later appointed Ambassador to the United Nations, which makes her a national figure. Historically, the only women governors in the South have served out the remaining terms of their expiring husbands. Haley was elected on her own merits as a republican, having served previously for three terms in the South Carolina legislature. Until preparing this review, I was oblivious to her Indian heritage and education as an accountant.
A memoir differs from an autobiography having a theme. The theme here is Haley’s political career in the Trump administration. Haley promised to campaign for the President in 2020 when she left her position as U.N. Ambassador and this memoir honors that commitment, albeit indirectly.
The allocation of words to topics reflects this commitment. Her time as governor (2 out of 13 chapters) reads more like a political resume than a backgrounder on her life and personal history. She never mentions her education as an accountant, how she met her husband, Michael, or where she attends church, although she tells a few stories to earn her bona fides as a business woman and minority candidate. Yet, we hear with exacting precision and great depth—reported dialogues serve as an accent mark—about her struggles over foreign policy (9 out of 13 chapters) and her access to the president.
Haley’s memoir makes two points about foreign policy that have created controversy. First, in her view Trump’s foreign policy is not only more consistent with our values, especially human rights, than previous administrations. She writes: “Our values are our most potent foreign-policy tool.” (234)
Haley was, for example, highly critical of the Obama vote to abstain when the U.N. General Assembly resolved to blame the United States for lack of freedom and poverty in Cuba. In fact, Cuba never recovered from the loss of Soviet subsidies with the fall of the Iron Curtain and severely restricts the freedoms of its own citizens (220-222).
Second, Trump has been willing to provide leadership to our allies, while previous Administrations have dallied. It is ironic, for example, that impeachment hearings should revolve around Ukraine. While Obama put sanctions on Putin’s government in response to the seizure of Crimea and his promoting armed insurgencies, Trump provided military assistance to Ukraine (100-103). Thus, while Trump has maintained dialogue with Putin, for which he has been criticized in the media, he has also checked Putin’s military adventurism.
Background and Organization
Nikki Haley, maiden name Nimrata Randhawa, grew up in Bamberg, SC, the daughter of immigrants. She is a graduate of Clemson University with a bachelors in accounting. She married her husband, Michael Haley, in 1996 in Sikh and Methodist ceremonies.
Haley writes in thirteen chapters:
- The Murders in Charleston
- The Flag Comes Down
- The Country Turns to Trump
- A New Day at the UN
- Taking Names
- Red Lines and Dictators
- Maximum Pressure
- Changing the Culture
- Beyond the Echo Chamber
- “I Don’t Get Confused”
- Facing Down a Dictator
- The Fight for a Hemisphere of Freedom
- Exiting on My Terms (vii-viii)
These chapters are preceded with a prologue and followed by acknowledgments and an index. She dedicates the book with these words: “To the people of America: I hope this is a reminder that on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.” (v)
Nikki Haley’s political memoir, With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, is both timely and informative. If you want to understand Donald Trump’s foreign policy, this is your book. Haley writes as a “fly on the wall” observer of Trump’s policies with candor and warm humor. Interestingly, her two chapters on her service as South Carolina’s first female governor demonstrate her competence as a tough, yet warm-hearted, leader after the shooting at Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. If you only read one memoir this year, this is a good candidate.
Haley Gains Respect
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.