Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

My first thought on hearing that Donald Trump has selected South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be his ambassador to the United Nations was that it might help mitigate the growing perception that he’s building a white nationalist team of caucasian men of near-retirement age. Haley is an (Asian) Indian-American woman.

My second thought was that she has almost no relevant experience.

My third thought was that she was a fairly strong critic of Trump and maybe not someone who will work naturally as part of his national security team, but at least she isn’t just an echo of other opinions.

But my final thought was more conspiratorial. In nominating Gov. Haley, Trump opens up a vacancy in the governor’s mansion in Columbia that will be filled by Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster. McMaster initially endorsed South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham for president but then surprised Graham by being the first elected official in the Palmetto State to endorse Trump.

In an interview with The Post and Courier, Graham said Thursday that although he doesn’t “know what Henry’s thinking is,” he admires McMaster.

“He is one of my dearest friends,” Graham said. “I think he will be helpful to Mr. Trump. He will give him so[me] legitimacy, sort of, in the establishment lane.”

Graham added that the endorsement surprised him “a little bit. But politics is politics.”

It should be remembered that Trump humiliated Sen. Graham during the primaries by releasing his private cell phone to the public and alleging that Graham had called him to beg for money.

McMaster is indeed an establishment Republican. He served as the GOP chairman for his state from 1994 to 2001, then spent eight years as the Attorney General.

He’s not overly controversial, although he has belonged to a golf club for decades that doesn’t seem to accept black members. He’s also been surrounded by some unsavory news in recent years with his chief of staff getting popped for drunk driving, one brother getting arrested for breaking into (or “tampering with”) a car and “discharging a firearm while under the influence of alcohol,” and another brother getting charged with “forcible fondling,” which is something the president-elect seems to know a thing or two about. In this case, though, the victim was a male waiter at the exclusive Palmetto Club.

Presumably, taking over as governor next year will give McMaster a leg-up as he seeks to win a primary and then general election to serve a full-term as Haley’s successor.

Appointing Haley to serve at the United Nations therefore can accomplish a few things of interest to Trump at once, although her actual ability to serve the nation in that capacity could be quite far down the list.

It may be more important to have a loyalist in place in a key early voting primary state.

In retrospect, the Washington Post‘s reporting of McMaster’s endorsement does look intriguing.

The endorsement from McMaster, a longtime ally of Gov. Nikki Haley, caught many Palmetto State Republican strategists by surprise — in no small part because of the simmering feud between Trump and Haley. The Republican governor’s party-sanctioned response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this month made pointed jabs at the tone and tenor of Trump’s campaign.”

At a minimum, the appointment of Haley is a way of rewarding McMaster.

So, keep that in mind.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at