If there is one thing that Nikki Haley's memoir Can't is Not an Option reveals, it's that the South Carolina governor has a flair for the dramatic, a taste for the theatrical, a love for standing in the spotlight and singing "This Land is Your Land" while God and all of creation applaud. She's a wannabe beauty pageant princess who is always the best at what she does, whether it's beating her children at Wii or giving herself an A+++ for her first 100 days in office.
Of course, Haley is more than just a pageant queen. She's a messianic leader, whether it's as the head of a statewide grassroots uprising called The Movement or as third grader who once brought racial harmony to the kickball field in the teenie, tiny town of Bamberg, S.C. Nikki's kickball tale is arguably the snake oil tome's most self-aggrandising, literary license-taking moment.
But nothing in Haley's memoir expresses Nikki's petulant need to be the center of attention more than the way in which she inserts herself into Gov. Mark Sanford's Appalachian Trail fiasco. In Can't is Not an Option, Haley writes:
I woke up the next morning and was heading into my job at the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, where I now worked when the House wasn't in session, when I got a call from Tim [Pearson]. "The governor was in Argentina," he said. "We just got a call from a news station asking if you were with him." I felt sick to my stomach."
I turned around on the steps of the hospital and went immediately back to the office. When I got there, Tim intercepted me in the parking lot. "I want to know what's going on," he said. The media were reporting that they had found Gov. Sanford's car at the airport. "They have sources watching the airport, and your car was spotted parked next to the governor's," Tim continued. "We told the station they can't run the story. We told them you were in D.C. and not anywhere near the governor."
She later adds:
And I thought with horror about how I was now being dragged into this scandal. For the first time I came face-to-face with what it meant to be a woman in the race. The rumor about Gov. Sanford and me lacked any factual foundation whatsoever. I had been in meetings for days in D.C. with dozens of people — including holding on-the-record, already published interviews with reporters. But the fact that the media were even asking said it all. They wouldn't be putting a male candidate in the humiliating position of having to explain why his car was parked by chance next to the governor's at the airport. I couldn't believe this was happening in 2009 in America.
Tim managed to convince the now-ravenous media that I hadn't been in Argentina with the governor, but in the hours and days that followed the scandal only got worse."
Now, here's the funny thing: after having spoken with several reporters and political insiders, there is reason to question Haley's account of the events mentioned above. Of the reporters that I spoke to, none of them contacted the Haley campaign about this alleged smear. For most, the first time that they had heard this anecdote was when Politico recently released an excerpt containing Haley's parking-lot claim. The same goes for the political insiders. The news that Haley's car was parked next to Sanford's during the whole Appalachian Trail fiasco was, well, news to them. Nearly everyone was baffled by Gov. Haley's claim in Can't is Not an Option.
So what's going on here? Frankly, I have no idea. I've reached out to Haley's press secretary Rob Godfrey for some sort of clarification, but he hasn't gotten back to me. Hopefully, he will, and we'll know exactly which media organizations were ravenously pursuing this story which pretty much no one had heard of until, like what, two weeks ago.
I'll leave you with this raw video of Mark Sanford's car at the Columbia Metro Airport. If someone can tell me which car is Haley's, well, that would be great.