Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley has warned against the prospect of November’s election becoming a rematch of the 2020 contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, asking: “Do we really want to have two 80-year-olds running for president when we have a country in disarray and a world on fire?”
Speaking at a CNN town hall event at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, ahead of next Tuesday’s state primary, Ms Haley told host Jake Tapper that both the GOP frontrunner and the president were so “distracted by their own investigations and their own grievances” that a renewed contest between them would not be in the best interests of the country.
“We don’t need people that are distracted,” she said. “We need people who love America, realise that if your time is gone, move out of the way and let a new generational leader come in.”
In an appeal to the Granite State’s independent voters, who can participate in either party’s primary, she said: “I want to bring people into the party. Because at the end of the day, we have to heal and unify as Americans.”
On Mr Trump’s recent attacks on her, including promoting a bogus “birther” conspiracy theory on social media, she suggested to Mr Tapper that his “temper tantrums” indicated he feels “threatened” and “insecure” about the potential she represents.
In the same broadcast, Ms Haley accused the man who appointed her as US ambassador to the United Nations in his first administration of failing to address the opioid crisis, adding $8tn to the national debt and cosying up to authoritarians like Chinese premier Xi Jinping, whose country she blamed for the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also suggested she would be prepared to pardon Mr Trump if she were to become president and any of his myriad legal cases result in a criminal conviction but stressed that “everything needs to play out”.
Haley says Trump:
— Allowed fentanyl come through
— Added 8 trillion to the debt
— Praised President Xi a dozen times after “they gave us COVID” pic.twitter.com/WrkrbT8lzy
— Acyn (@Acyn) January 19, 2024
She elaborated: “This is no longer about whether he’s innocent or guilty. This is about the fact that ‘how do we bring the country back together?’
“And I am determined to make sure all of this division and all of this chaos goes away, and I think a pardon for him would make all of that go away.”
Ms Haley also doubled down, rather awkwardly, on her contention that America has never been a racist nation, insisting the country’s “intent was to do the right thing” at all times since its founding.
“Now, did they have to go fix it along the way?” she asked.
“Yes, but I don’t think the intent was ever that we were going to be a racist country.”
Reflecting on her own experiences of racism growing up in rural South Carolina as the daughter of Indian immigrants, that state’s former governor said: “We had plenty of racism that we had to deal with, but my parents never said we lived in a racist country, and I’m so thankful they didn’t.
“Because for every brown and Black child out there, if you tell them they live or were born in a racist country, you’re immediately telling them they don’t have a chance.”