President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet confirmation hearings have been rich in embarrassing moments, perhaps none more so than when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Donald Trump's nominee for U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, had to be brought up to speed by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) on the most basic facts of the historic Iran nuclear deal.
During her confirmation hearing to become the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley tried her best to skate past Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) question about the Iran nuclear deal. But in just a few seconds, she managed to display such rank ignorance of the pact that Kaine had to respectfully set her straight.
Haley’s command of this basic diplomatic instrument was so lacking that she could not offer any rebuttal, instead plaintively promising to go back and actually read the agreement:
KAINE: …you were an opponent of the Iran deal. Would you support the U.S. unilaterally backing out of the Iran deal at this point?
HALEY: I think what would be more beneficial at this point is that we look at all the details of the Iran deal. We see if they are actually in compliance. If we find that there are violations, then we act on the violations, and I think that watching that very closely is important. What we did was, we gave the state sponsor of terrorism a pass, that even after ten years they will not be held to any sort of prohibitions on building nuclear weapons, and we gave them billions of dollars to do it. So I believe that if that has passed and if that is where it is, we need to hold them accountable and watch them as we go forward.
KAINE: I would encourage you to read the agreement, because what you just stated about the agreement is quite inaccurate. There are many, many restrictions in the agreement after ten years, specific restrictions in perpetuity. The first paragraph of the agreement says that Iran, pursuant to the agreement, will never seek to develop, acquire, or otherwise construct a nuclear weapon. So the notion that there’s no restrictions after ten years, I don’t know where you get that from. The notion that we gave them money — we didn’t give them anything. There was money that was Iran’s that had been frozen. We released access so they could get money that was theirs, in exchange for their agreement to restrict their nuclear weapons program, and guarantee in perpetuity, not only to not have nuclear weapons, but allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that accurately reported to this body that Iraq didn’t have a nuclear weapons program. And we disbelieved them and started a war, and found out that they were right.
So I would encourage you to read the agreement, because if you think those things, I can see why you were against it, and I can see why you might want to back out of it, but actually that’s a completely inaccurate reflection of the agreement. I would also encourage you to speak to intelligence and military officials in Israel, many whom now say that they think the agreement the working, with respect to the nuclear aspect of Iran’s activity. There’s other activity that’s very troubling that we obviously need to be very aggressive in countering. That’s all I have, thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Haley: Thank you Senator, and I would just say that while, yes, I will look into that, what we all need to remember is a nuclear Iran is very dangerous for the entire world, and it is important that we look at all the details of the agreement, which I will do, and make sure that they are actually following through on the promises that were made.
KAINE: I appreciate that.
The Iran nuclear deal is by no means unanimously supported, but irrespective of one’s position on the merits of the deal, it ought to be easy to agree that our nation’s top diplomats should know what is actually in it. Any satisfaction derived from Kaine’s command of the facts pales in comparison to the fright every American should feel at the prospect of a diplomat with such a blatantly poor grasp of even the basic elements of such a critical agreement.
For all the reasons there are to oppose Trump’s nominees, their consistent and demonstrable unfitness for the positions they seek ought to be right at the top of the list. Haley’s performance here is a textbook example of that pattern, one which regrettably extends all the way to our next president.