Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vice President Nikki Haley? Or, is it President Nikki Haley?

The capricious young woman we elected Queen is baring her teeth again, this time incomprehensibly at legislative leaders in her own party.

Speaking to a gathering of followers who desire a government of no government, and no public services, Governor Nikki Haley lashed out at conservative legislators for crafting a budget bill that doesn't immediately dismantle government in general -- and more specifically, that doesn't decimate an already starved budget.

Most ominous of all, Haley promised her acolytes that she's going to get "very loud."

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley lashed out Wednesday after S.C. House budget writers rejected her proposal to cut state taxes by $140 million, saying she was tired of dealing with a GOP-controlled Legislature “that doesn’t know how to act like one.”

In contrast to her predecessor and mentor Mark Sanford, who battled with legislators constantly, Haley has tried – most of the time – not to be too critical of the Legislature. However, speaking to a gathering of the S.C. Association of Taxpayers, Haley said her new tone was the “beginning of me getting very loud.”

“Out of a $6 billion budget – $6 billion budget – the House spent it all,” Haley said. “We have a Republican House and we have a Republican Senate, but we can’t get tax reform in this state. Something is very wrong.”

Instead of the $140 million in tax cuts that Haley asked for in her executive budget proposal, House budget writers chose to spend $152 million to give teachers a raise and another $180 million to deepen the port of Charleston. Haley did not include money for either in her budget proposal.

Some would say that Haley is still trying to divert attention from her colossal mis-step in endorsing, then joining herself at the hip to, Mitt Romney in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, and also from her inscrutible backroom deal with Georgia that has led to all sorts of turmoil among advocates of the Charleston port.

Haley's attack on public employees -- her proposal to re-adopt "right-to-work-for-less" statutes that have existed for decades -- distracted the media's attention for a only a few minutes. Her decision to ditch a White House dinner hosted by the President and First Lady caught the attention of some, but otherwise, the petulant governor has kept a low profile for the past couple of weeks.

But in her remarks to the anti-tax group, Haley let slip -- or was it intentional dog-whistle to out-of-state donors? -- a strange sentiment captured in the earliest media reports of her speech.

“Enough is enough. At what point can I go face any state in the country and say, ‘We have a Republican house and we have a Republican Senate but we can’t get tax reform in this state. Something is very wrong.”

Why is the governor of South Carolina worried about what she might say to the citizens of "any state in the country"?

Is it because our Red Queen has her sights set on a nationwide campaign? Is she still angling to be the Republican nominee's vice presidential selection?

Why else would she excoriate the ultra-conservative legislative leaders of her own party -- beside whom she served contentiously for three lackluster terms before she was coronated governor -- as weak on tax relief? And after a decade that has witnessed the shrinkage of our state budget by a billion dollars, thanks to tax cuts?

Can you imagine that? Our -- that is, South Carolina's -- Nikki Haley, a heartbeat from the presidency of the United States, ensconced in the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.? Barking orders at subjects and demanding office space in the West Wing of our White House?

Or is Haley readying herself for a GOP defeat this year and setting her sights on a presidential campaign of her own in 2016? (That would certainly explain the new initiative to close party primaries; Haley wouldn't want to be embarrassed by losing the first presidential primary in the South, in her own home state.)

I'm sure I'm not the only one saying, Perish the thought.

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