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Haley Stands By ‘America First’ In Event With Iowa Republicans

Nikki Haley, who served as the ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump, speaks to Iowa Republicans at their Lincoln Dinner.
Grant Gerlock
Nikki Haley, who served as the ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump, speaks to Iowa Republicans at their annual Lincoln Dinner.

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley emphasized the Trump administration’s aggressive approach to diplomacy with China, and cultural conflict with Democrats at an event with Iowa Republicans that could preview a run for the GOP nomination in 2024.

Nikki Haley, the former ambassador and South Carolina governor, hinted at her potential presidential ambitions in her first comments Thursday evening as the main speaker at the Iowa GOP’s annual Lincoln Dinner.

“There are a lot of reasons why I love Iowa,” Haley said from a ballroom stage at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines. “But maybe the biggest reason is that Iowa loves to elect badass Republican women.”

Iowa will hold the first caucus in the 2024 Republican nominating contest, and Haley used her time in front of around 500 party members and leaders to flex her foreign policy credentials and stake her position on the divisive topic of racism in America.

In her speech, Haley defended her role in carrying out the Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy, particularly with China, which she called “the greatest threat to America’s future.”

She said President Donald Trump was right to issue tariffs on Chinese goods, and that the Biden administration — which has kept the tariffs in place — should do more to enforce a trade deal reached in 2019.

“China is far smarter and stronger than the Soviet Union ever was,” Haley said. “It threatens our farmers, our manufacturers, our infrastructure, our values, and our very way of life.”

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to Iowa Republicans at the annual Lincoln Dinner.
Grant Gerlock
Former ambassador Nikki Haley told Iowa Republicans the U.S. should skip the Beijing Olympics to protest violence against Uyghur Muslims. "If it were any other country the world would be up in arms, but because it's China everybody's too scared to call them out," she said.

The Biden White House should also act more forcefully on the issue of human rights abuses in China, she said, and should boycott the Beijing Olympics to put the topic of violence against Muslim minorities front and center.

“In this next Olympics if we don’t boycott, cause problems, get with other countries and really rally, this will be China showing the entire world that it’s the new super power of the entire world,” Haley said.

Republicans should rally around cultural issues in the run-up to the 2022 mid-term elections, Haley said, including the issue of how Americans talk about racism.

She condemned Critical Race Theory, which examines how race impacts systems across society. The concept has become a partisan lightning rod and was targeted by a new Iowa law that limits the topics that can be taught by schools and in diversity training.

Haley said the idea that America is a racist country should not be taught in school.

“It's being taught to little kids who don't see color and it tells them that color is all that matters,” said Haley, who was twice elected governor of South Carolina and pushed to remove the Confederate Flag from the state capitol.

Haley, whose parents came to the United States from India, said her own political success in South Carolina shows the nation is a “work in progress.”

“They claim America is racist,” she said. “Take it from me — the first female and minority governor of South Carolina — they are wrong.”

Haley is not the only former Trump administration official testing the political waters in Iowa.

Other possible 2024 candidates are headed here next month, including former Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who will speak at a Christian conservative summit held by The Family Leader.

IPR News Iowa Politics2024 Election
Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa