Here is Peter Wehner at The Atlantic:
As soon as former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley emerged as the main threat to Donald Trump in the battle for the Republican nomination, it became inevitable that she would be targeted by him. Any front-runner would do the same thing. But Trump did it with his typical touch.
Last week Trump reposted on his Truth Social account a conspiracy theory that Haley, who was born in South Carolina, was not qualified to be president because her parents, born in India, were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth. In fact, the Fourteenth Amendment establishes that any person born on American soil is a citizen of the United States and therefore can serve as president.
Last Tuesday, Trump decided to ratchet up the racism a few notches. On Truth Social, he wrote this about his former ambassador to the United Nations:
“Anyone listening to Nikki “Nimrada” Haley’s wacked out speech last night, would think that she won the Iowa Primary. She didn’t, and she couldn’t even beat a very flawed Ron DeSanctimonious, who’s out of money, and out of hope. Nikki came in a distant THIRD! She said she would never run against me, “he was a great President,” and she should have followed her own advice. Now she’s stuck with WEAK POLICIES, and a VERY STRONG MAGA BASE, and there’s just nothing she can do!”
By Friday the former president of the United States was referring to Haley as “Nimbra.”
There are two things to know in order to understand what’s unfolding. The first is that Haley’s given name is Nimarata Nikki Randhawa. She has gone by Nikki since she was a child—a local newspaper referred to her as Nikki when she was 12 years old and she had a role in a production of Li’l Abner; and she dropped her maiden name when she married Michael Haley in 1996.
The second is that this is a bigoted game that Trump is well versed in. In 2011, Trump was the chief promoter of the lie that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore ineligible to serve as president. (I called out Trump in the pages of The Wall Street Journal at the time he did this.) He later implied that Obama was a Muslim and dubbed him “the founder of ISIS.” As recently as a few months ago, Trump, in blaming both President Joe Biden and former President Obama for Hamas’s attacks on Israel, highlighted Obama’s middle name, Hussein, as he has done many times before.
In 2020, Trump did something similar with Kamala Harris, saying in a press conference that he had “heard” that Harris “doesn’t meet the requirements” to be president. Trump has perfected the just-asking-questions posture that promotes conspiracy theories without quite vouching for them. (Harris was born in Oakland; her mother was from India and her father from Jamaica. The source of Trump’s claim was John Eastman, who wrote a crackpot essay in Newsweek challenging Harris’s eligibility and who now faces nine criminal counts in Georgia’s election-conspiracy case.)
Read the entire piece here.
Wehner concludes: “Donald Trump took a party that, by the time he first ran for president, was increasingly inward looking, fearful, and uncharitable, and he made it cruel, xenophobic, exclusionary, and bigoted. It is the party of malice. I hope my former party will one day be reformed. For now, it needs to be defeated.”