Opinion

Why AIPAC Just Loves Nikki Haley

She offered cheap politics – emotions, not principles, intended to charm and flatter ('You guys are amazing') – and the audience reacted accordingly

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 5, 2018.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP

WASHINGTON – The lights in the central auditorium of the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. were dimmed, the dramatic music rose and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, walked onto the stage, like a bride on her wedding day.

She was cheered by 18,000 people. In the front row sat Israeli elected officials, many of them excited to tears, as though they were seeing the burning bush, at minimum. But Haley isn’t the embodiment of divinity. If anything, she’s a contemporary, bleak manifestation of the golden calf, with hollow, metronomically predictable messages, youth movement slogans (“standing up for your friends is critical”) and cheap politics – of emotions rather than principles, intended to charm and flatter (“You guys are amazing”), and the audience reacted accordingly.

Haley is a radical incarnation of the spirit of our time. This is a era in which the political person, not to mention the leader, is nothing but a collection of images and gestures, mainly a passionate, almost sick desire for the audience’s love. Politics in which the contenders for power don’t come with ideas and solutions, but with a personal story having a conflict and shallow, catchy solutions, a story that makes the audience feel they can do it too – a little biographical switch and they’ll turn into Nikki Haley.

“Some of you might have seen that the top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, recently had some advice for me. He told me to shut up. Mr. Erekat, I will always be respectful,” she announced, as if she were on the Ricki Lake show, “but I will never shut up.” Standing ovation. Life as an empowerment workshop.

Nikki Haley Wows pro-Israel Lobby AIPAC.

Then came the usual nonsense, which every Internet troll can recite at 3 A.M., about the UN not dealing with what’s happening in ISIS, but with Israel. What does that mean, in fact? Does Haley believe sovereign, democratic Israel should be judged by the same standards that the international community uses for ISIS? Going by her confidence and relaxed manner, it seems she does.

Thus passed 20 minutes of simultaneous orgasms, with the fervid audience screaming “I love you” and reflecting today’s expectation of leadership, which should make every citizen of the free world shudder. Instead of relations between the citizen and the leader, we relations between the client and the service provider, with the service being entertainment, fun, excitement and emotion.

Haley went on to insult her predecessor and blast UNESCO and, in fact, everything that isn’t President Donald Trump or herself. And all with sweet talk, emphasizing each syllable and uttering it slowly, to give her words a flavor of wisdom and depth.

Never mind the audience – most of them are Israel-lovers in the most basic, thrilling sense of the term – but to see the line of smug Israeli elected officials delighting in every word, one would think it was 1948 and someone had decided to recognize our existence, as though there had been no wars and we had no achievements, as if Israel hasn’t given the world Nobel Prize laureates, hasn’t created its own literature and culture, nothing. For those elected officials we are no more than a persecuted community that needs a hug from the sovereign, who deigns to bestow his goodness on it. Hooray for Haley.