Nikki Haley, on her first day as the new U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Friday the mission she leads would try to fix what’s wrong and improve what’s working while backing those nations that support her country and “taking names” of those that don’t.
“There is a new USUN,” she said in the lobby of the Secretariat building, using the initials of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. “You are going to see a change in the way we do business. It’s no longer about working harder. It’s about working smarter.”
Haley, 45, comes to the UN after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this week. Tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the mission based across the street from the UN’s East River complex, she is the former two-term South Carolina governor who has emerged as something of a rising star in the Republican Party.
Most notably, Haley seized the national spotlight as she led the bipartisan call to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state house in Columbia, South Carolina, after the June 17, 2015, shooting rampage that left dead nine members of a historic black church.
Haley took no questions in her brief comments to the press Friday, speaking for just over one minute, but she reiterated her boss’ talking points about improving the United Nations and ushering in a new era. Haley also promised to reward those who show allegiance to the United States and to respond accordingly to those who don’t.
“Our goal is to show value at the UN,” she said. “And the way that we’ll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure that our allies have our back as well. For those who don’t have our back we’re taking names. We will make points to respond to that accordingly. This is a time of strength. This is a time of action. This is a time of getting things done.”
Haley takes the reins from Samantha Power, who served nearly four years in the post after working as a journalist, scholar, human rights champion and national security adviser to President Barack Obama.
The appointment comes as the United States realigns its relationship with Israel, especially after the 14-0 UN Security Council vote in December that condemned Israeli housing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained from voting, breaking a long tradition of backing Israel to the hilt by vetoing similar resolutions.
Haley — who condemned the UN for the vote against an ally and said she’d be in favor of withholding payments to the UN to force changes in the way some of its bodies operate — acknowledged during her confirmation hearings that she has little to no foreign policy experience. But she said her tenure at the helm of South Carolina demonstrated her skill at negotiation, perhaps the key credential for diplomats.
Federal lawmakers peppered Haley with questions about her opinion of the international order, the sanctity of borders, Israel, Iran, Russia and Syria. She sailed to confirmation, 96 to 4.
In her introduction at the Secretariat building, Haley declined to engage with reporters as she had done with the senators who ultimately confirmed her.
“This is a time of fresh eyes, new strength, new vision and a great day at the USUN,” she said.