Of all the potential Republican presidential contenders for 2024, CNN's John Berman seems to have singled out Nikki Haley for special opprobrium. Who knows whether it's out of conviction, or a sense that Haley might pose the biggest electoral threat to President Biden—or, as the case may be—to Kamala Harris, who shares Indian-American heritage with Haley?
Berman's beef with Haley is over what he has described as her flip-flopping. In a February Politico article, Haley was sharply critical of President Trump: "He let us down. He went down a path he shouldn't have. And we shouldn't have followed him. And we shouldn't have listened to him. We can't let that ever happen again."
As we wrote at the time, "you might have expected CNN's John Berman to heap hosannas" on Haley for attacking Trump. But to the contrary, Berman went out of his way to ensure that Haley would reap no political credit for her statement" [emphasis added]:
"I do not think this is interesting as a Profiles in Courage moment . . . Nikki Haley, if anything, is a weathervane . . . She twists with the political winds to a certain extent her. And she sees the political wind blowing against the former President of the United States."
Berman was back on his anti-Haley perch on this morning's New Day. The co-host was reacting to Haley's declaration of yesterday that she would not run for president in 2024 if Trump does. Haley also mentioned that she had enjoyed a "great working relationship" with the former president. Berman burst into a medley of metaphors to harangue Haley.
"There's waffling, and then there is Waffle House, right? There's flip-flops and then there's Nikki Haley. Political gymnastics, it's like Nadia Comaneci. It's like, you can't even name all the superlatives here."
As substitute co-host Poppy Harlow weighed in to also hit Haley, saying "it doesn't seem like she knows what she believes, and that matters," Berman ran off the names of a number of other famous gymnasts from the Seventies and Eighties: "Olga Korbut, Kurt Thomas, Bart Conner."
Speaking of wafffling, Berman offered a negative spin when Haley trashed Trump, and a negative spin when she softened it. But partisan journalists can change spins like socks, apparently.
So, if flip-flopping is singular sin for politicians in Berman's eyes, what about Kamala Harris? During a 2019 Democrat primary debate, she in effect branded Biden a racist for his opposition to forced school busing. Harris's line, aimed right at Biden: "that little girl was me," was surely the most memorable of the campaign season. And yet, when Biden chose her as his running mate, Harris somehow transformed into Biden's biggest booster. Can anyone recall Berman blasting Harris for her flip-flop? Neither can we.
Note: Anna Palmer, late of Politico, now founder/CEO of Punchbowl News, played things straighter. She described Haley as a "realist," given that if Trump ran in 2024, Haley would have a "very, very difficult trying to get any momentum."
Here's the transcript.
6:33 am EDT
JOHN BERMAN: So, Anna, there's waffling, and then there is Waffle House, right? There's flip-flops and then there's Nikki Haley. You know, political gymnastics, it's like Nadia Comaneci. I mean, you can't even name all the superlatives here.
Because I want to read you what she told Politico, Tim Alberta, in this interview that published January [actually, February] 12th about Donald Trump. She said Donald Trump was done. Should be done in the Republican party. She said: "He's not going to run for federal office again. I don't think he's going to be in the picture. I don't think he can. He's fallen so far. We shouldn't have followed him. We shouldn't have listened to him. And we can't let that ever let that happen again."
Nikki Haley, January [February] 12th, meet Nikki Haley from yesterday. Play this.
NIKKI HALEY: I would not run if President Trump ran. And I would talk to him about it. You know, that's something that we'll have a conversation about at some point if that decision is something that has to be made. Had a great working relationship with him. I appreciated the way he let me do my job. And look, I just want to keep building on what we accomplished and not watch it get torn down.
[Directed to Anna Palmer] Explain.
ANNA PALMER: [chuckles] I think she's a realist. You know, she made those comments earlier this year that were pretty stunning. There was certainly the Never Trumpers who were behind her. But there wasn't a huge groundswell of enthusiasm among the Republican base, which is very strongly in Donald Trump's camp, continues to be. And I think she just sees the writing on the wall, that if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, if he chooses to run, she would have a very, very difficult time trying to get any momentum against him.
POPPY HARLOW: I just, I can't get over and I don't have as good analogies as Berman this morning.
PALMER: No one does.
BERMAN: [listing other famous gymnasts] Olga Korbut. Kurt Thomas. Bart Conner.
HARLOW: But in all reality, I'm just stunned that she -- it doesn't seem like she knows what she believes, and that matters [chuckles].