When, in November 2016, Nikki Haley was nominated U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Professor Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore reacted with outrage.
"No one in the United Nations," Tiefer said, "will think that Haley is someone to talk to who will be either knowledgeable or close to the president."
Tiefer must feel a bit stupid right now.
After all, in light of Saturday's unanimous U.N. vote to approve new sanctions on North Korea, Haley has proved she's thriving as a U.S. ambassador. These days, at the U.N., Haley isn't just a U.S. citizen worth talking to, she's the top diplomat to talk to.
In just a few months at U.N. headquarters, Haley has distinguished herself. Indeed, at this pace, Haley is on course to become the finest U.S. ambassador to the U.N. since Adlai "don't wait for the translation!" Stevenson. When you consider that Stevenson left Manhattan in 1965, Haley's impact is significant.
It has been forged by results.
Haley entered the U.N. to meet a world despondent at Hillary Clinton's defeat. In diplomatic circles, Haley was seen as a stick-figure of President Trump's patronage. Someone who had sucked up just enough to get a job and plush diplomatic living. Someone who would do little, leave office with another entry on her Wikipedia profile, and join the millionaire speaking circuit. Instead, Haley has won the respect of her fellow diplomats and rallied the world on both Syria and North Korea.
On Syria, while Haley has been unable to guide Trump away from appeasing Russia, she has nevertheless made a positive impact. In frequent, aggressive condemnations of Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's slaughter, Haley has prevented Russia from positioning itself as a moral actor on the Syrian civil war. That has long been a top Russian priority, but now it is dead. In turn, Haley has made the U.S. the leading voice for Syrian Sunnis. This is important for two reasons.
First, it represents the return of American moral leadership after eight years of Obama administration neglect. Second, it helps consolidate the Sunni-Arab monarchies in believing that the U.S. will not allow Iran, Assad, and Russia to set the path of the Middle East uncontested. That understanding matters because if they lack that faith, the Sunni monarchies will double down on groups like the Islamic State.
Similarly, on North Korea, Haley has built a close working relationship with other U.N. ambassadors, particularly those of America's European allies. This has allowed Haley to represent America's sense of urgency about North Korea in a more credible and effective way than other U.S. officials. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, doesn't seem to know what to say.
Regardless, Haley's urgency allowed her to lay the diplomatic groundwork for Saturday's vote. She got global partners to pay attention to her, and then engaged them in a serious policy response.
The record is clear. Haley has already accomplished far more than most other well-known U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. That includes Madeleine "Rwandan" Albright, and Haley's predecessor, Samantha "wrote the book on anti-genocide leadership, but forgot it in order to join the Obama administration" Power.
Sadly, this reality is one that Haley's critics are struggling to accept. Last week, on ABC's "The View," for example, Haley was a top target of attack. Debating North Korea and the United Nations, supposed anti-racist Whoopi Goldberg kept calling Kim Jong Un "Kim Jong Jum Jum". But the entire panel also condemned Haley as a failure who is totally out of her depth.
There can be only one takeaway from such ignorance. "The View" panelists will invite Tiefer to join them next season.