Delivering the GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday night, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley took veiled shots at both Donald Trump and Ferguson-style protesters in calling for inclusiveness and a lower volume of discourse.
Haley first panned Obama’s presidency and record that “has often fallen far short of his soaring words” before noting that the GOP bears some responsibility for people’s frustration with government.
“You’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive. Neither am I. I see what you see, and many of your frustrations are my frustrations. A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept,” Haley said.
“We need to be honest with each other and with ourselves. While Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.”
The governor stressed that Republicans “need to own that truth” and “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,” she said.
Haley emphasized that she’s the “proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country,” adding “my family didn’t look like our neighbors” and didn’t have much.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,” she said. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country. At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally, and in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.”
“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration and it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion, just like we have for centuries.”
Haley spoke about the “tragic blow” dealt to her state when white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine at the historic Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in June. The governor hastened the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds after the massacre.
“That night, someone new joined them. He didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, didn’t sound like them. They didn’t throw him out, they didn’t call the police. Instead, they pulled up a chair and prayed with him for an hour. We lost nine incredible souls that night. What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about,” she continued.
“Our state was struck with shock, pain and fear, but our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs. 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.”
Haley noted “there’s an important lesson in this: In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.”
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That’s just not true,” she said. “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.”
Republicans, she said, should “stand up for our beliefs” in this “new era.”
“We would respect differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy,” Haley said. “We would recognize the importance of the separation of powers and honor the Constitution in its entirety. And yes, that includes the Second and Tenth Amendments. We would make international agreements that were celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.”
The first woman to serve as governor of South Carolina urged GOPs to “rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man — and woman.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) praised Haley’s “remarkable contrast” with Obama.
“She is one of the most effective leaders in our party. She has turned conservative principles into real solutions in South Carolina,” Ryan said. “The vision she outlined for our country was inclusive and optimistic, and perhaps most important, it was grounded in reality. This is someone who’s done the tough work of governing.”