During her formal Republican address after President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Gov. Nikki Haley tossed the party’s usual barbs at the president, but spent more time arguing that Republicans need to regain the public’s trust.
“There is more than enough blame to go around. We as Republicans need to own that truth,” Haley said in her nine-minute address. “We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. And then we need to fix it.”
Gov. Haley’s GOP Address (9:04)
Haley also seemed to direct more criticism towards current GOP presidential frontrunners for their views on refugees fleeing war in the Mideast than she did President Obama. She briefly spoke about growing up as the daughter of Indian immigrants in rural South Carolina living “the dream that is America.”
She urged Americans not to listen to “the angriest voices” of the political season. “Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory,” she said. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
But she insisted the country could not “flat out open its borders” and must focus on “properly vetted legal immigrants.”
Haley, America’s youngest governor and the first woman or minority from either party to be elected as South Carolina’s governor, delivered the recorded address from the Governor’s Mansion. Her selection by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month fueled speculation that Haley was being vetted as a potential vice-presidential choice. The governor has repeatedly downplayed the rumors, insisting she wants to finish out the rest of her term.
While Haley spent only about a minute of her time criticizing President Obama, she did not hold back when she had the opportunity. “As he did when he first ran for office, tonight President Obama spoke eloquently about grand things. He is at his best when he does that,” she said. “Unfortunately, the President’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words.”
Haley did not criticize specific policies, however, only touching on stagnant income levels, “crushing national debt,” the Affordable Care Act, and the president being “either unwilling or unable to deal with” the “most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th.”
The governor also spoke about the nine victims killed at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church in June. She praised South Carolina’s response to the murders, including lawmakers’ decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. “We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world. We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.”
She also, possibly unwittingly, echoed President Obama’s laments that political rhetoric has become heated
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”
The South Carolina Democratic Party’s state chairman accused Haley of not living up to her own rhetoric. “Gov. Haley would like our nation to believe that she is a unifier, committed to helping South Carolinians and working families across the country, yet she’s peddling the same trickle-down economics that only benefit the very wealthy,” Party chairman Jaime Harrison said in an email, referring to the governor’s proposal that would lower South Carolina’s income tax rate by 2 percentage points. “We’ve tried that before and it failed.”