HomeTop StoriesKristi Noem and the politicians who turned to self-destruction

Kristi Noem and the politicians who turned to self-destruction

She could have been a contender. But then she wrote a book. And suddenly, Kristi Noem was caught like a bunny – or a rambunctious puppy – in the headlights.

The governor of South Dakota found herself accidentally including a false claim in her book that she had met North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Wait, said Elizabeth Vargas of NewsNation, you recorded the entire audiobook version and read this passage out loud. Why didn’t you take it out then?

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Noem blinked, nodded, and waffled. She was pressed twice more on the point. Finally, she asked desperately, “Did you want to talk about something else today?”

It was a car crash interview at the end of a train wreck week. Noem then abruptly canceled further appearances on CNN and Fox News, sparing herself further vilification over both the Kim lie and the admission that she once dealt with a misbehaving puppy by shooting it dead in a gravel pit.

She was labeled a fabulist and dog killer and her hopes of becoming Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election were in ruins. Noem had become the latest in a long line of politicians – from Gary Hart’s affair to Sarah Palin’s blunders and Mark Sanford’s cover-up – to carry out a spectacular act of self-immolation.

“She’s in the pantheon now,” said Rick Wilson, a strategist who has worked on many Republican presidential campaigns. “The arrogance of many political candidates who think they are good with the press is that they are good with the press, until they realize that they have been skating on thinner and thinner ice and, when that ice disappears, they are under pressure . water.”

The rise and fall of Kristi Noem happened with dizzying speed. The rancher and rancher served for years in the South Dakota Legislature and then entered Congress in the right-wing populist Tea Party wave of 2010. She became South Dakota’s first female governor in 2019 and received plaudits from Republicans for her opposition to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2022, Noem published a book, Not My First Rodeo, with an image on the front of her wearing a cowboy hat on horseback, holding the reins in one hand and holding a giant American flag in the other. “From humorous barnyard fights with spirited cattle and rodeo horses …” was part of the PR pitch. The book seemed to cement her status as a serious player in the Make America Great Again (Maga) universe.

There were concerns about Noem’s hardline stance on abortion and media reports of an affair with former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski. But in February this year, when the Conservative Political Action Conference polled for Trump’s vice presidential choice, she tied with Vivek Ramaswamy for first place among 17 possible candidates.

But things started to unravel when Noem appeared in a bizarre infomercial-style video in which he praised a team of cosmetic dentists in Texas. Then she went one book too far. In No Going Back, as first reported by the Guardian, she wrote that she took Cricket, her 14-month-old wirehaired pointer, on a bird hunt with older dogs in hopes of calming the wild puppy.

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Instead, Cricket chased the pheasants, attacked a family’s chickens during a stop on the way home and then “turned around to bite me,” she recalled. She later led Cricket to a gravel pit and killed her. For good measure, she added that she also shot a goat the family owned, claiming it was vicious and liked to chase her children.

Although Trump once famously claimed that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue without losing voters, it soon became apparent that shooting a dog is the last taboo of American politics, the only sacrilege that Democrats and Republicans can jointly condemn in an otherwise hyper-partisan time.

Someone close to her told her: You have to show that Trump can be counted on to be as brutal and ugly as he needs to be, no matter the assignment.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson

Joe Biden’s re-election campaign posted on social media photo of the president strolling across the White House lawn with one of his three German Shepherds. Democrat Hillary Clinton reposted a 2021 comment in which she warned: “Don’t vote for someone you wouldn’t trust with your dog.” She now added: “It’s still true.”

Former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich told the Politico website: “Killing the dog and then writing about it ended the possibility of her being chosen as vice president.” .” Far-right extremist Laura Loomer, a Trump supporter, posted on X: “Wow. You won’t come back from this. This is so heartless. Did she kill a puppy? As a dog lover, that is just too much for me.”

What was she thinking? Some speculated that because the story had been circulating among state politicians for years that Noem killed a dog in a “fit of rage” — and there were witnesses — she was now going public because she was being vetted as a vice-presidential candidate.

Others were convinced it was a misguided attempt to curry favor with Trump, who admires “killers” and has no love for dogs. Wilson, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, said: For her, writing about killing a dog wasn’t about writing about killing a dog.

“Corey Lewandowski or someone close to her said to her: you have to show Trump that you are tough, mean and evil, that you can do the hard thing, that you can be the one who will never be like Mike Pence, that you will be counted on can be counted. of Trump to be as brutal and ugly as he needs to be, no matter the assignment.”

He added: “That’s why she wrote like that, to say, I would kill a puppy and isn’t that good enough for you, Donald? But even Donald Trump, who hates dogs, hates bad PR even more. Kristi Noem became the definition of bad PR.”

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Then came the catastrophic book tour. Noem gave interviews on CBS, NewsNation, Newsmax and Fox Business, where the normally Maga-friendly Stuart Varney pushed her on the dog story until she snapped, “Enough, Stuart. This interview is ridiculous – what you’re doing now. So you have to stop.”

Wilson noted, “On the third or fourth day of her being humiliated in public again and again, even I felt that someone should put her out of her misery and take her to the gravel pit to put an end to this pain. She was absolutely flailing every moment and had no sense of clarity.

“When you are on a PR tour and trying to appeal to the Maga base, there is a belief in the Maga world that you never apologize, never say you were wrong, and never back down. But unfortunately that’s not how people work. Even in the Maga media world, she started to wrap her head around this, and rightly so. She deserved it.”

Noem faced some criticism over the passage in her book that said she remembered meeting Kim: “I’m sure he underestimated me because he had no idea of ​​my experience staring at little tyrants (after all, I had been a children’s pastor).” She subsequently admitted that such a meeting had taken place and promised to correct subsequent editions.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said: “As a woman in the Republican Party, she wanted to project an image of toughness and is trying to win the position of running mate. It’s not really the dog; the giveaway is Kim Jong-un. That could have been any foreign leader.

“Why did she lie about meeting Kim Jong-un? Remembering the “love affair” between Trump and Kim Jong-un, she thought Trump would be especially impressed if she met and talked to him. That’s something they have in common – but that’s not the case.”

Noem is not the first American politician to hit the self-destruct button.

Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture, was on a flight after the 1976 Republican National Convention when he said, “I’ll tell you what the colored people want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.” The comment was reported in the media, leading to a rebuke from then-president Gerald Ford and the resignation of Butz, who claimed that “the use of bad racial commentary in no way reflects my actual attitudes.”

Senator Gary Hart, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, told a reporter, “Follow me around. I do not mind. I mean it. If anyone wants to give me a tail, go ahead. They would be very bored.” The Miami Herald kept tabs on Hart, who was married, and reported that he spent a night with a young model named Donna Rice. He withdrew from the race.

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John Edwards, a young and charismatic star of the Democratic party, ran for president in 2008 while having an affair and fathering a child with a woman while his wife was battling cancer. The scandal came to light and destroyed his political career.

Republican Sarah Palin was John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 election but became a liability thanks to blunders that exposed her lack of foreign policy experience or knowledge of the Supreme Court. When asked which newspaper or magazine she regularly reads, Palin replied: “Um, all of them, all of the ones that have been in front of me all these years.”

Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina when he flew to Argentina in 2009 to be with a woman who was not his wife, but told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The deception was quickly exposed, made vivid headlines and ended his twenty-year marriage.

Sanford told the Guardian this week: “The reality of life is ups and downs and I think the measure of all of us is how we respond to the downs more than the ups. The record stands for itself in the sense that I was honest, put my cards on the table and dealt with things as they came, and that’s the best thing you can do in those situations.

“Anyone who has publicly failed at something, if he has learned anything from it, he has learned to do exactly what the Bible says by not judging others. It’s simply recognizing that the nature of the human condition is imperfect. Those who pretend to be the most perfect are not alive and inevitably live in a glass house.”

But Sanford admits he is baffled that Trump, who faces 88 charges in four criminal cases, appears to be getting a free pass and is once again the Republican presidential candidate. “The higher you climb, the further you fall, and appropriately there is a magnifying glass that is applied to people in public office who, quite frankly, should be there.

“People shouldn’t be above the law and get away with things that other people don’t, and there is an extra level of scrutiny that comes with public life, which may have something to do with the fact that we are in a country of poverty to live. 330 million people and, remarkably, [Trump and Biden] are the two best people the country has to offer on the Republican and Democratic sides. Are you joking?

Other politicians undone by a fatal mistake include Andrew Gillum, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner. Some seem destined to fly too close to the sun. Sabato noted: “They want everything and are used to being very lucky. That’s what they do. They assume that they will continue to be lucky. That is fatal for everyone. If you’re lucky, go for a drink, but don’t expect to be lucky every day. It’s not happening.”

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