OTR Interviews

Happy holiday homecoming for military wife, Gov. Nikki Haley

S.C. governor and husband reflect on his return from his tour of Afghanistan, the controversial cut in veterans benefits in the budget bill and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 18, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It's not easy being away from home, especially on holidays. But the good news, many of our troops are coming home. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is a military spouse. Her husband deployed for Afghanistan a year ago. But now, Captain Mike Haley just got back and joins along with the governor.

Good evening, Governor and Captain.



VAN SUSTEREN: Captain, first to you. What is it like to be home?

MICHAEL HALEY: It's terrific. It's great to be back. It's as I left it, so everything is all good here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And, Governor, how about you? Are you glad to have him back or has he come back and taken over the remote control and the television and doing all those things husbands do that is annoying?


NIKKI HALEY: Oh, Greta, we got our Christmas wish. When I saw him, I took the first breath I've taken in an entire year. It feels great.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the good things, that when politicians have a real life experience, so many military families go through such -- it's tough. And so for politicians to actually experience it, likewise, I think you understand better. You get it.

NIKKI HALEY: We're a military family first, before I'm an elected official. And so what I know is the sacrifices that are made on both sides. Our loved ones go overseas and fight for our freedoms and for our country. We are so proud. But at the same time, we become single parents, we become the financial managers, we have to take care of work, we have to take care of all of our priorities. So it really is sacrifice on both sides, but we could not be more proud or willing to do something so important for our country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Captain, what was it like in Afghanistan?

MICHAEL HALEY: Well, as you can imagine, vastly different than South Carolina or most parts of the country here. But all in all, we had a great tour. I was very lucky to have been able to have that experience. The area in which we operated was down in Helmand Province, which is very desert-like, small cities in between and very vast in land. But overall, it was a terrific experience.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was your job, Captain?

MICHAEL HALEY: My job -- well, I actually had several hats as many of us did. We had a small team of about 48 of us. But about eight of us were part of an agri business development team. My specific job for the first three months was a liaison officer with what would be equivalent here as the Department of Agriculture. Helmand, there is no other industry outside of agriculture. So it is that important that our mission and the focus of the military was, at that time, to put emphasis on putting people to work, and one of the avenues was through agriculture.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, what do you make of the budget with the cut in the veterans benefits? That certainly has created controversy here in Washington and across the nation.

NIKKI HALEY: I think it's so much more than that, Greta. What you have is, they took their first big step with the sequestration to cut the spending that they had had. I didn't agree with the way they did it because they did it across the board, but at least they cut. Now they have gone and reversed it. So while everyone is talking about military benefit, I find it interesting that, in South Carolina, we go and we cut every year, we go and we balance every year. And we don't cut military benefits. We don't cut the things that are important to our citizens. We don't cut those core issues. Why is it that they can't seem to get a budget where, one, they cut and, two, they prioritize on what they cut. It's chaotic and it's mismanaged. It's the poor decision making from my standpoint. But it is D.C. as we know it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Captain, do you get a sense, having left Afghanistan, that we're really on a path to leaving the country on a good strong path or do you sort of shrug your shoulders and say this can be tough?

MICHAEL HALEY: Well, I think we've done everything right while we've been there. How we acted has been important and that was part of our operations there. I think going forward, it's important that we still keep a presence there. That is the big debate now. We'll see what those numbers are here in the near future.

The presidential election is coming up there. And that will be obviously a very crucial time in their history. So I think, all in all, the progress is yet to be seen. There is too much on the table left. But we'll see.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, I understand that you've got an honorary black belt today. And maybe the captain better be a little worried.


NIKKI HALEY: You know, I already told him I'm his commander in chief and he's not listening. Now I'm a fourth-degree black belt. So hope, maybe somehow, I can show him that and that will make a difference.


MICHAEL HALEY: I see a video of her shooting machine guns and now she's a fourth-degree black belt.


VAN SUSTEREN: And you can actually break a board?


NIKKI HALEY: I actually broke a board. These hands are tough.


VAN SUSTEREN: That's unbelievable. Were you surprised?

NIKKI HALEY: It was interesting. Never underestimate your strength. But I will tell you, I was a little bit surprised. But I always love trying new things. That was a new challenge. And now I have a black belt to show for it. I'm pretty excited.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's a good message for all the military families, don't underestimate your strength.


VAN SUSTEREN: Things are tough, but the military is tough and strong and families go through a lot.

Captain, Governor, thank you both. Merry Christmas.

MICHAEL HALEY: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

NIKKI HALEY: Thanks so much, Greta. Merry Christmas.