Nikki Haley on John Bolton: ‘I Know His Disdain For The UN; I Share It’

By Patrick Goodenough | April 9, 2018 | 2:50pm EDT
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaks at Duke University in Durham, N.C. on Thursday, April 5, 2018. With her is Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy. (Photo: Duke University/Megan Mendenhall)

( – U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley says she believes she will work well with incoming national security advisor John Bolton – himself a former ambassador to the U.N. – saying that she shares his “disdain for the U.N.”

“I know John Bolton well,” Haley told an event at Duke University in North Carolina on Thursday. “I’ve gotten advice from him, I’ve talked to him. I know his disdain for the U.N.; I share it.”

“I think we’re going to have a great working relationship.”

Haley was reacting to a question from event host, Duke professor of political science and public policy Peter Feaver, who asked whether she was concerned that Bolton – “because he’s been there and because he has a strong view about the U.N.” – would try to tell her from Washington “what to do.”

“No, he wouldn’t do that,” she responded with a smile.

The former governor of South Carolina recalled that when tapped by Trump for the ambassador’s post she had asked that it be a cabinet-level position and come with a seat on the national security council – because “that’s where the decisions are made and I wanted to be in the room when they made them.”

“I said to the president, ‘I’m not going to be a wallflower or a talking head,’” she said. “And he said, ‘Nikki, that’s why I want you to do this.’”

Since then, Haley said, the president has “stayed true to that.”

Ambassadors to the U.N. have been members of the cabinet in most administrations since the 1950s, with the George W. Bush administration the most recent exception.

After President-elect Obama signaled his intention to restore cabinet rank when he nominated Susan Rice as ambassador, Bolton called the decision unwise, saying that the move “overstates the role and importance the U.N. should have in U.S. foreign policy,” and adding that “you shouldn’t have two secretaries in the same department.”

‘How Americans look at the U.N.’

Like Bolton more than a decade earlier, Haley has made an impression in New York with uncompromising and strong-worded criticism of regimes acting against the interests of the U.S. and its allies – among them Russia, Iran, North Korea and Syria – and of the U.N. institution itself at times.

Arguably her most compelling remarks at the U.N. came ahead of a lopsided General Assembly vote last December adopting a resolution declaring Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void.”

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” she said.

“We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

While the vote would make no difference to the U.S. decision on relocating its embassy, Haley said, “this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N.”

Haley has been particularly scathing about the U.N. Human Rights Council and its disproportionate focus on Israel – even as it downplays or ignores altogether some of the world’s worst abuses. She has called the U.N.’s top human rights body “foolish and unworthy of its name.”

In her speech at Duke, Haley underlined that stance, saying, “We’ve made it clear to the Human Rights Council that either it will change, or it will pursue its biased agenda without the United States as a member.”

John Bolton served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush. (U.N. Photo/Eskinder Debebe, File)

For his part, Bolton in a 1994 speech famously said, “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.”

When Bush picked him as ambassador to the world body in 2005, that views and others were cited as Democratic critics in the U.S. Senate lined up to oppose his nomination. The president eventually bypassed the Senate, appointing him to the post during a congressional recess.

Even as Bolton’s term in New York dismayed multilateralists, many Americans leery of the U.N. felt the administration could not have had a better representative at a time when U.N. needed serious reform, and faced a range of foreign policy challenges, including those posed by Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Burma.

Bolton, argued Heritage Foundation scholars Nile Gardiner and Brett Schaefer in 2006, had “shaken up an institution that has for decades been resistant to change and cast a revealing light on an elite U.N. establishment that has long thrived amidst a culture of complacency and secrecy.”

Bolton resigned from the post in December 2006, after the Senate failed to approve his nomination ahead of the expiry of the recess appointment, and returned to his position as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Asked by an AEI interviewer seven years later what was the greatest lesson he learned as ambassador, he replied, “America has to defend its own interests in the United Nations, because you can be sure no one else will.”

“Acting like a well-bred doormat gets us nothing but more pressure to conform in an environment that it is often far from conducive to our values and interests,” he said. “That can be done politely and graciously, but we should never confuse being friendly with making substantive concessions.”


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