Nikki Haley delivers flawless “boy you messin up” face. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

 

For all the grief President Trump gets for going at the media hammer-and-tongs, a lot of his anger and frustration is completely justified. The idea that there is some duty on the part of this administration, or any administration, to remain silently respectful of a press that is doing its damnedest to torpedo it is just bizarre. Yesterday was a prime example of a cheap political hit job packaged by the New York Times as news. The target was Nikki Haley whose vigorous representation of US interests to Third World kleptocrats is beginning to scare Democrat politicians.

The State Department spent $52,701 last year buying customized and mechanized curtains for the picture windows in Nikki R. Haley’s official residence as ambassador to the United Nations, just as the department was undergoing deep budget cuts and had frozen hiring.

The residence, in a new building on First Avenue, has spectacular views, and Ms. Haley is the first ambassador to live in it. For decades, her predecessors lived in the Waldorf Astoria hotel. But after the hotel was purchased by a Chinese insurance company with a murky ownership structure, the State Department decided in 2016 to find a new home for its top New York diplomat because of security concerns.

The government leased the apartment, just blocks from the delegation’s offices, with an option to buy, according to Patrick Kennedy, the top management official at the State Department during the Obama administration. The full-floor penthouse, with handsome hardwood floors covering large open spaces stretching nearly 6,000 square feet, was listed at $58,000 a month.

The curtains themselves cost $29,900, while the motors and hardware needed to open and close them automatically cost $22,801, according to the contracts. Installation took place from March to August of last year, during Ms. Haley’s tenure as ambassador.

Ms. Haley’s curtains are more expensive than the $31,000 dining room set purchased for the office of Ben Carson, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That purchase became so controversial that President Trump considered firing Mr. Carson, though the spending rules covering agency chiefs are different from those for ambassadors.

While Ms. Haley’s curtains were being ordered and installed, Rex W. Tillerson, the administration’s first secretary of state, had frozen hiring, pushed out many of the department’s most senior diplomats and proposed cutting the department’s budget by 31 percent. In embassies around the world, projects were eliminated, jobs were left unfilled and the delegation to last year’s United Nations General Assembly meeting was slashed.

“How can you, on the one hand, tell diplomats that basic needs cannot be met and, on the other hand, spend more than $50,000 on a customized curtain system for the ambassador to the U.N.?” asked Brett Bruen, a White House official in the Obama administration.

There are two key points here. First, there is the monthly lease for Haley’s quarters. $58K is a lot. But how much was that space in the Waldorf Astoria where Samantha Power gleefully unmasked the identities of Americans caught up in FISA intercepts?

That’s right, Haley went from quarters that cost the US government $135,000 per month to substantially cheaper ones.

And the curtains. In paragraph six of the story you find this:

A spokesman for Ms. Haley said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, during the Obama administration. Ms. Haley had no say in the purchase, he said.

Even Washington Post staffer Aaron Blake was stunned by this:

Yes, yes, I know that mentioning anything that contradicts an anti-Trump narrative is just “whataboutism” but that’s just how I roll these days.

What they are doing here is trying to tie Haley to a theme that the media has been pushing ever since the new administration arrived in Washington. That theme is that Trump’s appointees are a bunch of plutocrats who use their agency budget like their own checkbooks. Some, like former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, made the theme very easy to push. They tried it on Ryan Zinke over doors to his office. And it is fun to note how this only cuts one way. While Ben Carson, a cabinet secretary, was getting lambasted for spending $31K on a table (don’t get me wrong, here, I don’t approve of this kind of un-republican living-high-on-the-hog nonsense) no one said diddly squat about the former deputy director of the FBI spending $70K on a table. This kind of story is why Trump can call FakeNews the “enemy of the people” until the cows come home and I don’t care.

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