In a New Hampshire town hall gathering in late December, Nikki Haley was asked about the cause of the Civil War. When the presidential candidate failed to mention slavery, the questioner responded "In the year 2023, it’s astonishing to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word ‘slavery.’” Haley in turn responded "What do you want me to say about slavery?"
It turns out that exclusion from Haley's answer of the role of slavery should not have been astonishing, nor even surprising. After what most of us thought at the time was a gaffe, then-candidate Ron DeSantis said that Haley “has had some problems with some basic American history.”
American history, and probably also civics. Appearing with the obviously humble host Charlemagne tha God
"if Texas decides they want to do that, they can do that," Haley said in an interview with the radio show "The Breakfast Club."
"If that whole state says, 'We don't want to be part of America anymore,' I mean, that's their decision to make," Haley said, though she also noted, "Let's talk about what's reality. Texas isn't going to secede."
Asked if she still believes that states generally have the right to secede, a sentiment she expressed on camera during her initial run for governor of South Carolina, Haley said that "states have the right to make the decisions that their people want to make."
"I believe in state's rights, I believe that everything should be as close to the people to decide," she said.
This is Nikki Haley being Nikki Haley, consistent if nothing else. When Haley initially was asked about the Civil War, she did not explicitly mention states' rights. However, this has always been the intellectual rationale for secession of southern states from the Union. And here we have the supposedly normal and moderate rival to Donald Trump arguing "if that whole state says 'We don't want to be part of America anymore,' I mean, that's their decision to make."
Well, no, it's not the state's decision to make. Conveniently, it was action by the State of Texas which resulted in a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1869 which confirmed that a state cannot simply call it quits. The Texas firm Zadeh has explained
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the state of Texas issued bonds that were purchased by George W. White and others. The bonds were guaranteed by the state of Texas, but after the war, the state claimed that the bonds were invalid because they were issued during a period when Texas was not a part of the United States.
White and the other bondholders sued the state of Texas, arguing that the state had not legally seceded from the United States and was therefore still responsible for its debts. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.
In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of White and the other bondholders, holding that Texas had never legally seceded from the United States and remained a part of the Union. The Court also held that the Constitution did not provide for the right of secession.
The decision in Texas v. White had significant implications for the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and helped to establish the supremacy of the federal government over the states.
The firm added "It also had important implications for the country's understanding of the relationship between states and the federal government."
Evidently, that's no longer the case, at least for someone who managed to be a governor and ambassador to the United Nations, seemingly without learning civics.
Haley would be justifiably confident that virtually no one will accuse of ignorance someone assumed to be knowledgeable and intelligent. Sidney Blumenthal, a former advisor to President Clinton and to Hillary Clinton, maintained "the unexpected incident (in New Hampshire) showed Haley to be slight, frightened, and cowardly. Her deeper problem is that she is a slave to her party" who "keeps trying to pass the southern test."
Jaime Harrison, current Democratic National Committee chairman and South Carolina party chairman during Haley's term as governor, saw Haley's act close-up. When she couldn't, or wouldn't, give a straight answer about slavery's role, Harris advised us "Time to take off the rose colored Nikki Haley glasses, folks."