Nikki Haley—the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who on Tuesday announced her intention to resign at the end of the year—has a rare quality among Trump administration cabinet officials: She is set to end her time in office with her reputation enhanced, not diminished.
Likewise, she has had to serve as the public face for unpopular U.S. policies and thus deal with admonishments by foreign diplomats angered by them. But that, too, is a role that her predecessors played. She has not come to be perceived as the primary architect of these policies. And in some cases where the administration has been able to mobilize global support, Haley has been at the forefront of that effort—for instance, the ramped-up sanctions on North Korea in December 2017.
Add to this one more quality on which she stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the administration (save the president): She has real political charisma.
I witnessed this firsthand when she visited Duke University in April. The audience, hardly a representative sample of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” coalition, gave her a resounding standing ovation—before her remarks. Then they capped it off with another standing ovation after she finished. None of the scores of guests I have hosted at Duke over the years generated that kind of response.
Afterward, she worked a selfie line—the millennial version of a rope line—that could have lasted an hour longer than the time allotted. One of my colleagues, an ardent Democrat, confided to me ruefully after the performance, “She could easily beat any of the Democratic headliners in the next election.”