Although it’s not being definitively described as a first, no one can remember it happening before. The spouse of a sitting U.S. governor is being deployed for active military duty. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s husband, Michael Haley — a first lieutenant in the state’s National Guard — is training for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, set to start in January.
At a news conference Monday, as reported in the State newspaper, the first-term governor said, “Do you worry? Yes, of course, you worry. . . . It’s like what I tell all my military spouses when I speak to other deployments: All needs to be well on the home front. And so we will be fine here, and he just needs to take care of himself when he’s there.”
In a statement, Michael Haley, who will be a liaison between an agricultural unit and Afghan leaders, said: “This deployment is the reason I joined the National Guard. It is important to me to be able to give back. . . . The only thing that gives me pause is the year-long deployment away from family,” which includes his wife and two children.
But the conservative Republican governor and her husband can’t entirely escape the politics of the moment, even as he prepares for duty. Michael Haley, who works full time with the National Guard, chided lawmakers last month on Facebook for not voting on a bill his wife favored. It happened on a day the Guard announced that three South Carolina soldiers had been killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. He wrote, “It amazes me that in a week that we have heroes who have died fighting for our freedoms, we have cowards who are afraid to take a vote in the senate.”
Although it was decided that he broke no rules, the head of the South Carolina National Guard used the incident to remind members about the rules on using social media to make political comments, and others thought his comparison was inappropriate. His wife defended his actions. Like her husband, she also often uses Facebook to, for example, declare her support for Mitt Romney “so that we can repeal this unAmerican policy,” as she refers to the Affordable Care Act, or to vow to keep fighting the Justice Department’s blocking of South Carolina’s strict voter-ID bill. “We won’t let this go,” she said.
After the news of her husband’s deployment, though, her Facebook post took on a gentler tone. Nikki Haley shared the lyrics to Poison’s 1988 hit “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” instead. “Just like every night has its dawn, just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song.”
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, has worked at the New York Times, the Charlotte Observer and as a national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3.