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Commentary By Manhattan Institute

2018 Alexander Hamilton Awards: Dermer and Haley

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of remarks delivered by Ambassadors Ron Dermer and Nikki Haley at the 2018 Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner

Ambassador Ron Dermer: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a real pleasure to be with all of you here tonight, especially since this has been a rather uneventful week for me. Truth is I just got back from a briefing of another Mossad operation, and I am happy to inform you that it looks like we found the Holy Grail.

Seriously, how about a round of applause for Israel’s remarkable intelligence agency? Their work makes Israel safer, it makes America safer, and it makes the world safer. Before I introduce Ambassador Haley, I want to thank Paul Singer and all the supporters of the Manhattan Institute for your efforts to strengthen free societies and free enterprise for over 40 years. I do not need to tell people in this room that ideas matter. And today ideas matter more than ever because ideas spread faster than ever. That is true for good ideas, but it is also true for bad ideas, as we can see from the growing assault on capitalism in this country and across the world.

Many of the discredited ideologies that brought so much misery in the 20th century are making a comeback in the 21st century. The Pied Pipers of these failed ideologies play an emotionally pleasing tune that is leading so many young people down a new road to serfdom. There are many reasons why these bad ideologies are spreading. The fertile political ground that has come with the transformation from an industrial to a technological age, the richly endowed educational institutions that have turned capitalism into a dirty word, the failure of capitalism’s defenders to make their case in moral terms, and of course a sense of history that goes all the way back to breakfast. But regardless of why bad ideas are spreading, it is clear that free market ideas are under an attack the likes of which we have not seen in many decades. That is why places like the Manhattan Institute are so important. So, on behalf of a fellow free market democracy led by a very capitalist prime minister, a democracy that flourishes when good ideas flourish, I want to thank all of you associated with the Manhattan Institute for defending freedom and for defending the truth.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I am honored to introduce someone who defends freedom and the truth each and every day, Ambassador Nikki Haley. I am sure many people here are aware of Ambassador Haley’s impressive bio, which can’t but reaffirm one’s faith in the promise of America. She is the proud daughter of immigrants from India, who has quickly ascended the ladder of meritocracy in this great country. She began as a community leader, served three terms in the South Carolina State House, and was the first female governor elected in that state. Last year, as you know, she took up her post at the United Nations. Ambassador Haley learned the lessons of hard work earlier than most. At the age of 12 she started keeping the books in a clothing business started by her mother. She said the experience helped her develop, “An extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion.” I am sure those instincts serve her well in dealing with a U.N. that has a well-deserved reputation of the being one of the planet’s most wasteful bureaucracies and which still harbors delusions of being a world government.

Yet what makes Ambassador Haley so special is not the details of her impressive bio. It is her even more impressive character. We all saw that character a few years ago in the wake of the horrific murder of nine African-Americans by a white supremacist in a church in Charleston. In that dark hour, Governor Haley helpedunite a grieving community and inspire a divided nation by removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol. And we all see that character every day, as Ambassador Haley so ably represents the United States at the United Nations. Washington may be a swamp, but the U.N. has long been a cesspool. Well, after sixteen months of wading through that cesspool, Ambassador Haley is as unsullied as ever. She has unapologetically defended the United States and she has taken on Iran, North Korea, and so many others with a moral clarity that we have not seen for many, many years. She has called evil by its name, distinguished friend from foe, and brought light into the darkness. For Israel, that light has been especially bright.

Most of you probably remember that in December 2016 the United Nations Security Council passed an anti-Israel resolution. Some of you may also recall that following that shameful vote, members of the Security Council actually broke out in a thunderous applause. That grotesque scene, when countries celebrated a ganging up on the world’s most beleaguered democracy is seared in my memory, which only makes the light of Nikki Haley shine even brighter for me and my country. With the full support of President Trump, she has been unwavering in her defense of Israel. She has steadfastly stood up for our democracy and confronted all of Israel’s enemies, from the tyrants in Tehran, to the butchers in Damascus, to the inciters in the Palestinian authority. This year, as Israel celebrates our 70th year of independence, we are honoring two of Ambassador Haley’s predecessors, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, two individuals who made a unique contribution to strengthening Israel and the alliance between our countries. Ambassador Haley clearly follows in the footsteps of those giants.

Among the moral midgets of the U.N., Ambassador Haley is a high-heeled Gulliver in Lilliput. And as she walks through the halls of the United Nations, people are taking notice. They see a remarkable woman who has earned the respect of so many across the aisle and around the world. They see a person of purpose and poise, of dignity and decency, of clarity and courage, and we all see someone that makes us proud. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming a 2018 Hamilton Award winner, Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Ambassador Nikki Haley: Thank you very much, Ambassador Dermer, for those very kind remarks. You know, at the U.N., America and Israel don’t always have a lot of friends, but Ambassador, I always say quality is better than quantity. Thank you to the Manhattan Institute for this great honor. It is a real pleasure to be here among fellow conservative warriors.

We have a lot in common. We both work behind enemy lines in New York City, and we are both optimists. We are trying to bring facts and reason to a lot of people who don’t want to hear anything of the sort. As a former governor, I am especially appreciative of the Manhattan Institute’s commitment to freedom and market principles. When I applied those principles in South Carolina, we had so much investment and job growth that by the time I left they were referring to South Carolina as the beast of the Southeast. I am very proud of that. The Manhattan Institute knows the power of ideas. No organization outside the NYPD is more responsible for the miracle that occurred in this city in the 1990s. And it was all based on an idea, the idea that public order matters, that New Yorkers had a right to a quality of life and good policing could help give them that. It is a rare thinktank that promotes an idea that leads to real change in real people’s lives. But that is what the Manhattan Institute does. It is inspiring. And as a recent transplant to New York City, I thank you.

Receiving an award for Alexander Hamilton is truly humbling. Hamilton, of course, is best known for his incredible achievements in financial and commercial policies, but he also had a few things to say about foreign policy. So, I am grateful that you saw fit to expand the Manhattan Institute‘s usual set of issues to give me this honor tonight. I came to the United Nations with a simple idea. That idea was that strong, confident American leadership on behalf of our values is vital. But when you come to the U.N. from a country like the United States, you see very quickly what the fundamental challenge is. We are faced with trying to work with many countries that do not share our values. I am accountable to the American people, but the representatives of unfree, undemocratic countries are accountable to no one, only to power and the whims of the dictators who employ them. That is a real challenge. A good example is the Security Council’s actions, or lack of actions, on Syria.

Five years ago, Russia took on the responsibility of guaranteeing the destruction and removal of all chemical weapons from Syria. Either by design or by incompetence, they have obviously failed at the task. You can applaud for that. So, the U.N. Security Council has attempted to deal with this problem, and there is very broad international support for doing so. But, of course, Russia has a veto and they have exercised it a dozen times to protect the Assad regime. Which is to say that a government that is comfortable protecting a mass murderer is actually dictating the United Nations’ policy on Syria. And that is the foundational dilemma of the United Nations. The U.N. is setup to treat all countries the same way, but all countries are not fundamentally the same.

When you try to pretend that there is no difference between the good guys and the bad guys, that is always a win for the bad guys. History shows us that when the United States fails to lead and fails to standup for our friends and our values, we suffer, and the world suffers. That is especially true at the U.N. On some of our most principled stands, like speaking out against the Castro regime’s inhumane treatment of the Cuban people, we are vastly outnumbered at the U.N. It would be easier to just not rock the boat.

When the crowd is all going one way, it can be hard to be the only one going in the other direction. But in America we don’t celebrate the mob. We celebrate the person that has the courage and conviction to stand up to the mob. Standing alone on behalf of America’s interests and values isn’t something to be embarrassed by, it is something to be proud of, especially when you consider the people and the things that have gotten loud expressions of support at the U.N., like the cheers that greeted Hugo Chavez in the General Assembly in 2006, or the applause that erupted in the chamber when the anti-Semitic resolution equating Zionism with racism was passed in 1974. If the United States has to sellout our friends or apologize for our values in order to be loved at the U.N., then we are better off without their approval.

Like the Manhattan Institute, we rely on the power of an idea to guide our approach at the United Nations. That idea is an America idea. It is that each of us has God-given rights that cannot be legitimately denied. Our commitment to freedom and human dignity has made the United States the most generous and powerful nation on earth. Our values are our most powerful foreign policy tools. We must never hesitate to lead with them.

President Trump will soon make some very consequential moves on the world stage. In the next ten days, the President will decide the future of the American involvement in the Iran nuclear deal. This is a very important decision, but regardless of which way the President decides to go, the truth is we have already entered a new era of leadership on Iran. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but there is seriously deepening unrest going on in Iran today. The new American commitment to holding the regime accountable for terrorizing the region and for violating human rights of its people has sent a powerful message at an important time. It tells the Iranian people that they don’t have to settle for a regime that is bankrupting its economy and denying basic human rights all in the name of religious extremism. The administration is not shy about stating that plain truth. Our new leadership on Iran also sends the right message to the other rogue would be nuclear state that is on the agenda in the next few weeks, North Korea.

Some argue that if the United States leaves or significantly alters the Iran deal that would send the message to North Korea that we can’t be trusted to live up to our commitments. Notice that the people who make that argument all think the Iran deal was something to be proud of. In fact, the argument has it backwards. By showing that we are willing to walk away from a bad deal with Iran, or to hold out for major improvements in that deal, we send the best possible message going into discussions with North Korea. The message is that we will not accept a bad deal just so that we can declare a hollow victory that fails to enhance our security.

I have every confidence that President Trump sees his upcoming talks with North Korea that way. We want a good deal, but we recognize that no deal is better than a bad deal. I began this evening talking about the Manhattan Institute and the miracle that occurred in the New York City in the 1990s. I will end by telling you another miracle, that the daughter of Indian immigrants has the privilege of speaking for the American people at the United Nations. This miracle was brought about through the power of the American idea. It is the revolutionary notion that we are all children of God and we all deserve to rise as far and as high as our hard work and talent will take us.

Virtually everything the Manhattan Institute does promotes that American idea, and I thank you for that. And as long as I am in public life, I will never stop being a proud messenger of America’s hope to the world. Thanks once again for this honor. I appreciate it very much.