Nikki Haley Is No Conservative

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We like to say that American conservatism is a three-legged stool. The “legs” are the three dominant factions in the Republican Party: social traditionalists, economic libertarians, and foreign policy interventionists. Conventional wisdom holds that the Right is only stable if all three legs are balanced. Yet, over the last half-century, the only “leg” that has consistently gotten its way from the GOP are the war hawks.

Sure, economic conservatives have gotten lower taxes, but the federal register of encumbering regulations has grown exponentially. The red-headed stepchildren of the fusion coalition have been the social conservatives. What we have seen is our issues given short shrift and sacrificed pretty quickly in the light of foreign policy contingencies. (See George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.) All our issues went down the drain when the neoconservatives began braying for nation-building down a gun barrel.

Conventional Republican presidents have done three things. First, they defunded Mexico City Policy that prohibits American family-planning money from supporting abortion overseas. Second, they defunded the United Nations Population Fund. Thirdly, they promised strict constructionists on the Supreme Court. If they do these things, they are considered pro-life. And they have not tended to do much more than this.

We seem to have gotten a reprieve from this political kabuki with the election of President Donald Trump, who has not started any wars and has also been consistent in pushing the pro-life cause, even in a granular way. He has gone far beyond Mexico City Policy, which he expanded, and defunding U.N. agencies. Did you know he defunded the Inter-American Human Rights Court over their promotion of abortion? Of course, you didn’t. Why should you? But that is how granularly pro-life he is.

So, it is with great concern that we see the rise of Nikki Haley and her promotion as some kind of pro-life hero. Is she? Or is she a more conventional Republican type who talks a pro-life game but really has other priorities?

Mrs. Haley was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for a few years, where pro-lifers worked with her to advance the cause in U.N. documents. This generally has to do with blocking certain language like “reproductive health.” How did Mrs. Haley do? Not well, according to those close to the situation.

In her many fiery speeches at the United Nations, she never once mentioned the organization’s overreach on abortion, even though the U.N.’s abortion promotion is widespread and brazen. Pro-lifers had to fight to convince her that fighting “sexual and reproductive health” was necessary every time it came up. Her staff was always looking for a reason not to fight it. Even then, the most she would allow is for the term to be qualified. Because she failed to fight the term consistently right from the start, it became clear to all it was not a priority for her, and countries adjusted their positions accordingly.

She too frequently seemed to blindly trust career diplomats telling her that “sexual and reproductive health” was a clean term. They were undermining the pro-life positions of the Trump administration and leaking information all along.

Mrs. Haley repeatedly turned down the possibility of hosting a U.S. sponsored pro-life event at the U.N., even though she hosted other types of events, including ones on free speech. It took months of heavy pressure on to convince her to get abortion out of a U.N. manual on “reproductive health.” This “Minimum Initial Service Package” even stated health providers must refer to abortions even if they conscientiously object.

Mrs. Haley was in the room when a U.N. bureaucrat unlawfully promoted abortion at the Human Rights Council, and she did absolutely nothing. This was at a meeting on extrajudicial killings where a U.N. bureaucrat said that deaths from botched abortions in countries with restrictive abortion laws amounted to extrajudicial killings. When she took the floor, she said nothing about this outrage.

Mrs. Haley may very well have a sterling pro-life record in South Carolina, which would hardly be a controversial place for such actions. But in the hothouse of the U.N., where abortion is involved in every debate—even in debates about peace and war—the Ambassador was almost entirely silent. Pro-lifers had to fight her office for table scraps, even though President Trump’s pro-life foreign policy was well known.

What were Haley’s priorities at the U.N.? To burnish her foreign policy credentials. To be a tough guy. It was no surprise that Haley invoked the name of Jeanne Kirkpatrick in her speech this week to the GOP National Convention. She wants Kirkpatrick’s mantle. Mrs. Haley came to the U.N. to defend Israel, which is fine and good, and to beat up on the Muslims. Sadly, she was all too eager to sacrifice the pro-life issue on the altar of standard GOP foreign policy fare.

And this is the worry, that this is how she would govern if she were elected president—just like George Bush did, and just like Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole would have, had they made their way to the White House. “Sure, I am pro-life! But, you see, I have these countries to bomb first. We will get to you later.” And later never comes.

[Photo credit: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images]

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic (Sophia Institute Press, 2021).

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