South Carolina's Indian-American Republican Governor Nikki Haley criticised President Barack Obama's "failure to handle America", but said "personal plans" kept her and husband Michael from attending Sunday's White House dinner.
Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host the dinner annually for the governors to coincide with the National Governors Association conference in Washington.
"We were meeting with friends," Haley told reporters Monday, following a press conference organised by the Republican Governors Association (RGA).
Haley said she and her husband "were honoured" to attend the White House dinner last year -- her first as governor -- but wanted to see friends Sunday night.
Haley attended Monday morning's meeting with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, where the president stressed the importance of education policy.
Haley later joined fellow Republican governors, Indian-American Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia, at the RGA press conference to blast Obama's policies and urge the election of a Republican president.
In addition to stressing the Republican message on business and education issues, Haley, who has endorsed Republican Mitt Romney, said Obama was coming in the way of development in her state.
"In South Carolina, we can't even pass our own bills without him getting in the way," she said. "We pass illegal immigration reform, he stops it. We pass voter ID, he stops it. We get Boeing, he stops it."
"I mean, I'd just like to be a governor and be able to take care of my state. The president's trying to handle the entire country, and he's failing," Haley said.
Personal plans. With friends.
Our classy governor, who spent last year's visit to the White House famously checking email and tapping out her memoir on an iPad, traveled to Washington for the annual governors' conference at the White House but ditched the annual governors' banquet, hosted by the President and First Lady of the United States, to visit friends.
Cyberspace sources today suggest that Haley's friends were the sort who write checks to demonstrate their friendship, that she snubbed the President and First Lady of the United States to attend a fundraiser. No corroboration yet, but the quarterly filing to the Federal Election Commission will tell that tale soon enough.
I wonder: Would Haley have similarly insulted former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush, and blown off a banquet hosted by them for governors, had she served during their regime? I suspect not; I suspect she'd have figured out a way to drag an extra chair up to the head table so she could be photographed munching quesadillas with Dubya.
And to see this glowingly published in The Times of India is all very exciting. It calls to mind the comments offered by former Senator Fritz Hollings to the Sunday Times of London, referring to former President George W. Bush as "half a bubble off plumb," or the time that former Governor Dick Riley told the Agence-Presse of Paris that former President Ronald Reagan was "ready for the home." It really warms the heart to see sitting South Carolina statesmen ridiculing our chief executive officer in the foreign press.
Our present state regent appears unconstrained by such scruples.
And it clearly wins her favor among the Indian people, who regard her as a "star," as reported by the Indian ambassador to the United States.
India's recently-appointed ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, was visiting the State Ports Authority Tuesday in Charleston as part of a three-day visit to South Carolina.
Rao said that she's looking forward to meeting with Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, and she hopes that Haley will consider leading a trade mission to India.
"She's a star there, naturally," said Rao. "I think all of India just adores her, and we are proud of her achievements."
Rao began her three-day visit to the Palmetto State at the SPA offices in downtown Charleston, where she also planned to visit the College of Charleston. The ambassador, who is visiting South Carolina for the first time, is scheduled to meet with Haley on Wednesday in Columbia, where she will also address the Columbia World Affairs Council luncheon.
On Thursday Rao and her entourage will be in the upstate area, touring the BMW auto plant near Greenville.
Where our governor is also regarded a star, no doubt.