IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 16, 2023.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.Bryon Houlgrave / AP file

Nikki Haley balances praising and condemning Trump’s legacy

Haley said he was “the right president at the right time,” but she also called Trump “weak in the knees when it comes to Ukraine.”

By and

GREENLAND, N.H. — Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley took turns complimenting and criticizing her former boss on the campaign trail Tuesday when a voter asked her how former President Donald Trump, now a rival for the 2024 GOP nomination, would be remembered.

“Time does funny things. My thought will be that he was the right president at the right time,” Haley said. She then offered more praise, saying, “He listened and brought in a group of people who felt unheard like where I grew up in rural South Carolina. He was strong on foreign policy and getting America’s respect in the world.” 

But then, Haley pivoted, giving some pointed criticism of Trump. It’s a line she has been straddling since entering the 2024 presidential race. 

“He was thin-skinned and easily distracted. He didn’t do anything on fiscal policy and really spent a lot of money, and we’re all paying the price for it,” Haley said.  

Then, she swung back to highlight his immigration policy. 

“He did do a better job than Biden on the border — really trying to corral that in and stop that,” she said. 

But then Haley went on to condemn his position on Ukraine. 

“He used to be good on foreign policy. And now he has started to walk it back and get weak in the knees when it comes to Ukraine,” she said.

James Petersen, 60, an undeclared voter from New Hampshire, is the one who asked Haley a question she says she “[hasn’t] been asked” on the trail.

He told NBC News he wanted to ask this question in order to “understand how she felt about Trump now and put a historical perspective on it.”  

Petersen thought Haley’s answer “played both sides.” He is still deciding who to vote for in the primary, but he said he believed it would be “damaging” if Trump got elected in the general election. 

Haley has consistently stated on the trail that Trump was the right president at the right time but is willing to criticize him in an effort to demonstrate that new leadership is needed within the Republican Party.