Nikki Haley Snows “The View”

Not being a regular consumer of The View, I don’t quite know what I expected, but tuned into Gov. Nikki Haley’s appearance today because it was an interesting scenario. Haley’s trying to hawk a book touting her “story” as a woman and as an Indian-American conquering discrimination and smears to become governor of a Deep South state. She’s also trying to benefit from silly talk about her potentially becoming Mitt Romney’s running-mate. Yet her “story” is hard to separate from her hard-core conservative politics, the details of the “smears” she endured, and the fact that back home the main news about her is that she’s struggling in office and is being linked to a tax fraud investigation of her family.

As it transpired, Haley got exactly what she wanted out of The View. She got to present an abbreviated version of her “story.” Claims that she is on Romney’s Veep short-list went unchallenged. No one asked if her modest disclaimer that she owed it to South Carolinians to finish her first term might reflect unfavorably on her patron Sarah Palin. No one questioned her characterization of the “smears” against her as politically motivated, and no one challenged her odd claim that they were “anonymous” (au contraire). Whoopi Goldberg even gave her credit for opposing negative campaigning, which was generous since the only negative campaigning Haley has opposed is negative campaigning aimed at her own self. Yes, she had to endure a brisk pro-Obama litany from Joy Behar (cut off by Barbara Walters), and then a Behar contradiction of her ridiculous statement that women “don’t care about contraception,” but then got away with suggesting the Obama administration was trying to force women to use contraceptives.

As Palin has illustrated, it’s not easy to simultaneously pose as a role model for brave and ambitious professional women and as part of a political movement that considers feminism a deadly threat to western civilization. It’s even harder to pose as a role model for minorities when you support increasing sales taxes on food in order to pay for eliminating corporate taxes, or when you proclaim that unions have no legitimate place in your state.

But Nikki Haley’s whole political career sort of looks like an extended high-wire act to begin with, and watching her snow The View helped me understand how she’s pulled it off–so far. Presumably the show’s vast audience, mostly composed of people who aren’t political junkies and don’t follow news from South Carolina, was suitably impressed.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.