'This Week' Transcript: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Carolina's governor weighs in on 2012 politics and her political future.

ByABC News
May 15, 2011, 9:22 AM

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2011 -- AMANPOUR: Governor, thank you for being with us.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's great to be with you.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first a big burning policy issue which is consuming a lot of time here in Washington and that is the raising of the debt ceiling. Do you think that this should happen or are you on the side of those who say hell no?

HALEY: Absolutely not. You know, we are seeing total chaos in D.C. right now. The very first thing they need to do is -- is make sure that they stop raising the debt. They need to make sure that they balance their budget like every other state in the country, and we've got to get control of our spending. It is chaos in D.C. and they need to stop.

AMANPOUR: So you say absolutely don't raise the debt ceiling. But what about the Fed? What about the treasury sector? What about Wall Street who's really worried that if this even goes down to the wire, it's going to really damage America's credibility and its ability to pay for doing its business.

HALEY: You know, government is notorious for saying the sky is falling. What I will tell you is every governor in the country has balanced their budget through very tough times. We have all had to make strong decisions. We have all had to go back to the basics and say what is the role of government? What do we have to have and work our way up?

AMANPOUR: So let's now then turn to the presidential race and the GOP candidates. Is Newt Gingrich an exciting candidate for you? You have said recently that there was a place and a time for him. Do you think he's the right candidate for the Republican party right now? Will he win the nomination?

HALEY: You know, I think the press always tries to paint a dark picture on everything. I think every candidate has their challenges. And I think that what we have seen with Newt Gingrich is he's had great ideas in the past, and what we are already starting to see is he's coming out and showing how his ideas today match the feelings of what we're dealing with today, whether it's the Medicaid mandates, whether it's food stamps, whether it's the unions. And he's come out and talked about the unions. That's what we want to hear about is the issues of the day. And I think that's what every candidate's going to have to do, and I was pleased to see him start to do that this week.

AMANPOUR: Well, but how do you square that saying that he did have a time and a place? Does he speak to the future to you?

HALEY: You know, I think that will remain to be seen. I think that's what he's got to tell. I think that the people of South Carolina and across this country are really going to push these candidates in a way that we've never pushed them before. And I think that Newt Gingrich has dealt with a lot of issues in the past, and I think now he's going to have to show that he's got those ideas to deal with the future.

AMANPOUR: So talking about policy debate, Mitt Romney gave a big speech this week about health care, about other issues, but primarily about health care. And he seemed to try to, again, put a square peg in a round hole saying that his health care for his state was great, but he would never do it for -- for federal health care.

The "Wall Street Journal" has told and called him compromised and not credible on this issue. Do you think that he's compromised and not credible? Could he be a nominee?

HALEY: You know, I think he absolutely could be a nominee. The interesting thing was he was one of the only governors that showed courage when it came to dealing with health care. I will tell you we do not want a Massachusetts health care plan in South Carolina. I think that he will have to continue to deal with that issue. I think he's going to have to talk about how that was not good for the country. That wouldn't be a good thing that we'd want to mandate on all of our states. And I think he'll have to respond to what his thought process was. But I think that we are looking for a leader that's willing to, one, make courageous stands, take strong policy decisions, but two, also admit when a mistake was made.

AMANPOUR: So do you think he adequately addressed that in his speech on Thursday? Has he laid that issue to rest?

HALEY: I think that issue's going to continue to be part of the debate. I think that every, like I said every candidate's going to have their challenge, I certainly think that's going to be his challenge.

AMANPOUR: so when it comes to social issues South Carolina is a pretty conservative state. What about Mitch Daniels who may or may not get in? Some are saying that he probably will. He has called for a truce on social issues and to be able to push the economy and other such issues forward. Do you agree with that?

HALEY: We're very conservative on maintaining family values, keeping our families strong. But also understanding the value of a dollar and that government is overspending in a time where we need to be cutting back.

AMANPOUR: Let's just take what you talked about family values and sort of make it about family. Mitch Daniels -- obviously there's been a lot of talk also about his wife, how sort of reluctant she is as a political spouse. Do you think there is enough, too much, not enough focus on the families, the wives of the candidates? How do you assess all of that?

HALEY: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's a terrible distraction to a campaign. I think what you need to be looking at and what I'm certainly looking at is what type of governor he was. He was an amazing reformer in his state. He brought great issues. He showed great courage at times that he needed to. Those are the issues we need to talk about. He needs to give his stance on where he stands with family values and what he'll do to make sure those stay strong in this country. But I think to go into a candidate's personal life and to try and attack them and distract the country, people are smarter than that.

AMANPOUR: You, of course, suffered your own attacks on that regard. Do you think that it's finished, that kind of smearing or do you think that that's going to be part of the race in 2012?

HALEY: We won't allow it in South Carolina. You know, the one thing about the people of South Carolina -- they showed it in my election, they will show it in the presidential -- is we will ask the hard questions, but we will show every candidate respect. And the second a political consultant tries to play dirty tricks, it will backfire and it will hurt that candidate. And so my warning to every candidate coming into South Carolina is come in, talk about the issues, that's what we want to hear about, but the distractions are not welcome in South Carolina.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about Donald Trump. What would you say to him, given that he has revealed himself, at least in one speech with women's group, to have a bit of a, I suppose what one might call a potty mouth, would you tell him that that was appropriate? What would you say about that? It offended a lot of women.

HALEY: That is not appropriate in South Carolina. We will give all of our candidates respect, and we certainly expect our candidates to come in and give the people of South Carolina respect.

AMANPOUR: You also said that it's time for Republicans to stop just attacking President Obama and look forward, look towards leadership, look towards their own positive ideas for government. Do you think for instance a politician such as Sarah Palin, who's a big supporter of yours, would her style, would her tone be the kind that you look for in a 2012 election since she really does spend a lot of time attacking President Obama's policies?

HALEY: You know, what we're saying is -- we're not saying don't attack his policies, that is what's gotten us into this policy debate that we're in today. What we are saying is we want to hear the solutions.

AMANPOUR: Do you think Sarah Palin would get in?

HALEY: I think she is amazing at getting people to know the power of their voice. I think that she woke up a lot of people in our country that just really thought that government was a waste of time and she got them to care again. And for that, I think that there will always be a place for her. But now it's time to talk about policy. And I think that if she chooses to get in, she'll understand that the policy issues of today are relevant and important right now too.

AMANPOUR: There have been a lot of suggestions that would make a great vice-presidential nominee, that you'd be great on any ticket. It's been discussed publicly. Where do you stand on that? Would you want to do that if you were asked?

HALEY: No. What I will tell you is it is -- I find it silly that it's being talked about, but I will tell you this. The people of South Carolina took a chance on electing me. It is my job and my family's job to prove to them that they made a good decision. I plan on committing to the people of this state my full four years in office, and I look forward to watching the 2012 and making sure those policy discussions are there, but I also plan on making the people of South Carolina very proud. I represent the best state in the country. There's no better job than that.

AMANPOUR: I heard a very strong commitment there. No waffle room. No wiggle room.

HALEY: No wiggle room at all. We are staying in South Carolina, and we're going to continue to lead it in a way that makes everyone proud.

AMANPOUR: Governor Haley, thank you very much for joining us from South Carolina.

HALEY: Thank you.