Nikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump

Former President Reagan, speaking of communist Russia and the Soviet Union, spoke of the evil empire. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: WHCA picking non-comedian for headliner a 'good first step' Five takeaways from Mississippi's Senate debate Watergate’s John Dean: Nixon would tell Trump 'he's going too far' MORE, speaking of his political opponents in America, charges that they are evil. 

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyTrump privately asking aides if Pence is loyal: report Haley honored with 'Woman of Valor' award at Independent Women's Forum gala Ben Shapiro mocks David Hogg over ‘shark attack’ tweet MORE, speaking Thursday evening at the Al Smith dinner, where every four years the presidential nominees of both parties speak, said that in America, our political opponents are not evil.

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Democrats wish former President Obama, former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaQuestlove curates soundtrack for Michelle Obama's book tour Obama says 'racism' and 'mommy issues' are limiting the country's ability to make progress Obama jokes Michelle’s book is causing ‘strain in our marriage’ MORE, former President Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWatergate’s John Dean: Nixon would tell Trump 'he's going too far' Senate Homeland Security chairman requests briefing on Ivanka Trump emails House GOP to hold hearing into DOJ’s probe of Clinton Foundation MORE, former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreScott defeats Nelson in Florida Senate race after bitter recount fight Incoming Michigan Dem will not back Pelosi Florida has chance to redeem itself MORE or former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryTrump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship Kerry: ‘People are going to die' due to Trump's withdrawal from Paris climate deal Kerry tears into Trump for skipping visit to military cemetery: ‘Truculent child president’ MORE had stood before the nation less than three weeks before the most important midterm election in history as Nikki Haley has done and said what she said.

A long list of Republicans and independents wish that every Republican politician in the back rooms and corridors of the Capitol in Washington had the courage that Nikki Haley showed at the Al Smith dinner, to say what she said, to step forward as she stepped forward.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellObama: Filibuster makes it 'almost impossible' to govern Ethics panel calls on House, Senate leaders to act on anti-sexual harassment bill Don’t fret the lame duck MORE (R-Ky.), instead of telling the nation that political opponents are not enemies, is now imitating Trump and accusing Democrats and liberals of being a mob.

Former President Obama, who has done precious little during the past two years to support Democrats and oppose Trump, should be campaigning daily for Democrats but is not, which is a major reason Trump’s attacks go largely unanswered by the most prominent Democrats.

When Haley announced her resignation from her important post weeks before the midterm elections, many took note of her timing and wondered why she chose to announce her resignation before, and not after, the most important midterm election in history.

I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know this: When Haley told the nation that political opponents are not enemies in America, she was speaking truth to power and to voters, without the cowardice and fear shown by so many Republicans in Washington who lack the courage to say what she said.

If I were a conservative or Republican, I would be waving a big sign that reads: “Draft Haley for President!”

As a liberal and a Democrat, I wonder where on earth Obama has been for the past two years. Aren’t there things more important right now than making paid speeches to big banks for more than $400,000 a pop?

With health care as a huge issue for voters in the midterms, why isn’t Obama doing more campaigning for Democrats and telling voters, many times a day, that it would be an act of cruelty and an outrage to strip health insurance away from Americans enduring pre-existing conditions, as many Republican propose?

When I watched Haley at the Al Smith dinner, rebutting Trump simply and powerfully, it was not hard to imagine that someday she might be speaking to that dinner crowd as a Republican nominee for president.

I am not endorsing a Haley candidacy. If she is nominated, I will undoubtedly support her Democratic opponent enthusiastically. But I will discuss her respectfully because she is a worthy adversary, not an enemy of the state.

There is something happening in America during the Trump years, something ugly caused by a president who pursues the politics of hatred and fear, who creates enemies lists that grow every day, who has turned a political system that was previously toxic into a cesspool of vindictive insults and outright lies.

Nikki Haley gets it. In America political opponents are opponents, not enemies. They are different. They are not evil. They are Americans, deserving of respect.  

No matter how strongly I disagree with Haley’s conservative philosophy, she is a worthy adversary and worthy heir to the party that is no longer the party of Lincoln but has become, instead, the party of Trump.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.