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    Op-Ed
    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Nikki Haley’s last card

    Artfully and even honestly, Donald Trump deployed his ultimate weapon just in time to stop Nikki Haley’s New Hampshire primary surge — and defeat her so decisively that the 24/7 news-talkers are now proclaiming her presidential quest hopeless.

    But if that happens, it may well be because Haley didn’t anticipate how Trump stopped her surge. Team Trump skillfully used the voices of the South Carolina conservatives who know Haley best against her. And Haley, hyper-cautious to her own detriment, missed a once-in-a-campaign gift opportunity to use the powerful words of true conservative Trump patriots in the hopes that she may be able to halt Trump’s appeal among the Make America Great crowd. How? By using the true words of those who know Trump best in the hopes that, when repeated massively, they might incite a belated patriotic shift into revolutionary Republican rethink.

    Before you say that can’t ever happen — especially if you are a patriotic conservative Republican voter — consider what we just saw happen in New Hampshire. Haley, South Carolina’s former two-term governor and Trump’s United Nations ambassador, ran a please-like-me campaign. And many did. She was the only candidate who gained significant support against Trump in New Hampshire.

    But Trump’s team found a non-Trump way to convince New Hampshire Republicans to rethink Haley’s appeal. Team Trump had the South Carolina Republicans who know Haley best deliver the message. Three days before the election, Trump stood on a New Hampshire stage with South Carolina’s conservative Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and top South Carolina Republican leaders as they endorsed Trump.

    Suddenly, rethink what happened in New Hampshire. Haley’s surge stopped, just in time for Trump to be able to have his double-digit primary win. Astonishingly, Haley didn’t inoculate her campaign against that possibility by spreading the word about how she had become governor by defeating McMaster in a primary.

    Which brings us to now: Haley’s one last hope is to make sure that America hears — again and again — the words of those many Republican patriots who served Trump as his most famous senior officials who have since warned us publicly about the peril they are convinced America would face if he is elected again as president. They have seen him come unhinged when the going got tough.

    Haley must make sure America hears their urgent warning calls — in videos and written words. I have covered presidencies dating back to Lyndon Johnson; but I have never witnessed anything like the numbers and urgent warnings from those who served closest to Trump. Secretaries of defense, state and homeland security. National security advisers. West Wing insiders.

    If you consider yourself a patriotic American, especially a conservative Republican, you need to pay attention to the words and warnings of those who are just like you — and who willingly served in the most prominent positions in Trump’s presidency.

    Trump ran through four chiefs of staff in four years. Several were outspoken, but none compared to the patriotic warnings that were conveyed by retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, a conservative hardliner who served as Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security before becoming Trump’s chief of staff.

    Last October, Kelly was asked about Trump’s strong lead in the presidential primary polls: “God help us,” Kelly said. Kelly called Trump “a person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as prisoners of war are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.'”

    Kelly said Trump “did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘It doesn’t look good for me.’”

    Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, a conservative patriotic Republican who initially defended Trump’s conduct during the president’s first impeachment, became disillusioned as Trump’s criminal indictments mounted and the evidence was revealed. In a TV interview last summer, Barr called Trump “a fundamentally flawed person who engages in reckless conduct, and that leads to situations, calamitous situations like this, which are very destructive…”

    Barr was quite critical of Trump’s accumulation of classified national security documents. “He had no right to those documents,” Barr said. “The government tried for over a year, quietly and with respect, to get them back, which was essential that they do, and he jerked them around. And he had no legal basis for keeping them….”

    As patriotic voters in our democracy, you should not fall into the trap of letting your voting decisions be shaped by pols on the other side — or by media columnists and talking heads. But when you hear alarming warnings from prominent officials from your own party — officials you admire — well, attention must be paid. Their words, in videos and on paper, should have been a staple of Haley’s rallies long ago.

    Play your last card now, Nikki. Trump Trump.

    Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at martin.schram@gmail.com.

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