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Nikki Haley calls Trump’s jab at her husband’s whereabouts an attack on U.S. military

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Skylar Laird, SC Daily Gazette
February 12, 2024

Nikki Haley ramped up her condemnation of Donald Trump questioning her husband’s whereabouts, calling his snide remarks in Conway part of the former president’s pattern of disrespect for the military and those who serve.

During his rally Saturday at Coastal Carolina, Trump took a very personal swipe at Haley.

“Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away. He’s away! What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone,” the twice-divorced Trump, who campaigns without his wife, said to a crowd of thousands. “He knew. He knew.”

Maj. Michael Haley is deployed to Djibouti, a small country on the Horn of Africa opposite Yemen, on a voluntary, yearlong mission with the South Carolina National Guard that started last June.

The former South Carolina governor called Trump’s mockery of the couple an attack on military service.

“In that moment, he showed that with that kind of disrespect for the military, he’s not qualified to be the president of the United States, because I don’t trust him to protect them,” Haley told fewer than 50 people gathered at Thunder Tower Harley-Davidson near Columbia on Monday, her third day of a campaign bus tour across the state.

The former governor, who trails Trump in polling numbers in her own state, often references her husband’s military service in campaign speeches. She points to it as inspiring her to seek the nation’s highest office, saying he and his fellow soldiers “still believe in this amazing experience that is America.”

Trump, who returns to South Carolina on Wednesday for a rally in North Charleston, never mentioned the military or Michael Haley’s service in his jab. It followed Trump telling the crowd that Nikki Haley came to his Florida estate with her husband and told her former boss she’d never run against him, something she also told reporters in 2021.

In a weekend response, Haley wrote on social media, “Either Donald Trump is openly insulting military families, or he got confused again and doesn’t know my husband is deployed.”

She quickly homed in on the former. On Monday, Haley asked what Trump, who was medically excused from the Vietnam War draft, knows about life in the military.

“The most harm he’s ever come across is whether a golf ball hits him on a golf cart,” Haley told reporters. “And you are going to mock our men and women in the military?”

Her campaign released a nearly two-minute ad that highlighted her message. It includes a CNN video clip about a report in The Atlantic in 2020 in which anonymous people said Trump called Americans who died in war “losers” and “suckers,” along with the allegation that Trump turned to his then-Chief of Staff John Kelly at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2017 and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

Trump denied the allegations soon after the article came out.

But the video montage also uses Trump’s own words as evidence. It reminds voters that Trump disparaged the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was held a prisoner for over five years during the Vietnam War, with a clip of Trump saying during his 2015 campaign, “I like people who weren’t captured, OK?”

Trump’s campaign countered that the former president supports the military, as shown by a 2.4% pay raise for troops he signed into law in 2018 and no wars started during his tenure.

“There has been no greater advocate for our brave military men and women than President Trump,” spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement.

But Haley said Trump attacked the military twice in his 90-minute speech in Conway. She pointed to his threat to countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an allied group of 31 members, that he would not protect them if they failed to spend enough money on their own defenses. NATO allies are supposed to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their military, though most don’t.

“No, I would not protect you,” he said he told a NATO leader while he was president, though he never named who was on the other end of the conversation.

“In fact, I would encourage (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want,” he added. “You gotta pay.”

Haley, who was Trump’s first United Nations ambassador, called that comment dangerous for military members overseas. They would reap the consequences if Russia invaded an allied country where they’re stationed, she said.

Ukraine, which Russia invaded in 2022, is not a member of NATO, though it wants to join.

“(Trump) is not somebody who’s going to prevent a war,” Haley said. “That’s somebody who’s going to get us in a war.”

Echoing what she said during campaign stops Saturday, Haley questioned whether the 77-year-old Trump is competent enough to run the country and handle both foreign and domestic disputes. She has called repeatedly for politicians over the age of 75 to take a mental competency test, particularly Trump and Biden following recent questions about their mental states.

“That kind of rhetoric was unhinged,” she said of Trump’s comments. “It made Joe Biden look sane. It made Joe Biden look normal, when we know he’s diminished.”

Michael Rose, a 29-year-old student seeing Haley on Monday, said much of his support for Haley comes from her experience in foreign policy as United Nations ambassador. He called Trump’s comments on her husband “despicable.”

“Trump’s a bully, plain and simple,” Rose said.

SC Daily Gazette is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. SC Daily Gazette maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Seanna Adcox for questions: Follow SC Daily Gazette on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from SC Daily Gazette under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.