South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday tried giving President Obama a swift goodbye after his final State of the Union address, saying he had failed to deliver on promises and that America will soon "have the chance to turn in a new direction."
“That’s what I want to talk about tonight,” said Haley, a rising GOP star picked to deliver the party’s official response to the presidential address. “If we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families. And we’d put the brakes on runaway spending and debt.”
Haley -- increasingly mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate -- pointed out that she is the daughter of Indian immigrants and suggested that a Republican administration would welcome new families and restore the American Dream.
“My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans',” she said from the statehouse in Columbia. “Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. … No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country."
She also urged Americans to resist “the siren call of the angriest voices,” in the aftermath of recent terror attacks abroad and in the United States connected to Islamic radicals.
Haley, 43, argued that Obama appears “either unwilling or unable” to address the worst domestic terror threat since 9/11.
She also said the U.S. should welcome "properly vetted" legal immigrants but made clear that illegal immigration can no longer continue.
Unmoved by Obama’s promise Tuesday night to continue to try to fix the country’s immigration problems and his plea to embrace the “pace of change,” Haley argued Americans are “frustrated” by the slow process and the increased size of government during his nearly eight years as president.
Haley, who convincingly won a second term in 2014, has become increasingly popular in political circles for her leadership in the aftermath of the June 2015 shooting in Charleston, in which a white gunman killed nine black people inside an historic African-American church.
She called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the statehouse grounds, and in the immediate aftermath Haley helped maintain calm.
“We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs,” Haley said Tuesday. “We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. … We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us. And we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.”
Haley, the state's first female governor, also said too many Americans during the Obama administration are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels, and she railed against ObamaCare, which she argued has made health insurance less affordable and doctors less available.
Still, Haley was unwilling to heap all of the blame on Obama and fellow Democrats.
“There is more than enough blame to go around,” she said. “We as Republicans need … to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. And then we need to fix it. … We have big decisions to make. Our country is being tested.”
Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune said Obama in his address "clearly wanted to take credit for the good things" over the past seven years.
"But I don't think it's going to make much of an impact on people or what's going on on Capitol Hill," he said.