Potential rival or running mate? Kristi Noem, the governor denying Trump a face on Mount Rushmore | Republicans
Donald Trump’s difficult summer continues. Hammered by the January 6 committee, his influence waning and possible legal action looming, the former US president must now face the death of a long cherished dream.
No, Trump’s face will not be engraved on Mount Rushmore.
Kristi Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota, home to the sacred national memorial, ruled out any additions to the 60-foot-tall faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
Noem first told the story of Trump’s wish to be immortalized on Mount Rushmore in 2018. Speaking to reporters in Washington on Thursday, she again recounted her first encounter with Trump in the Oval Office when she was a member of Congress.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, my name is Kristi Noem, I’m from South Dakota. South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore. You should come visit it sometime. And he said, ‘Oh, did you know it’s my dream to have my face on Mount Rushmore?’ And I was surprised by it. We laughed and laughed about it.”
But when asked by the Guardian on Thursday whether Trump’s dream of being carved into the monument could come true even after his involvement in the January 6 insurrection, Noem replied: “I don’t think we’re adding faces to Mount Rushmore anytime soon. It’s quite special as it is.
“I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that any of our leaders were perfect. Each of us has flaws, but we always have leaders who have guided us through difficult times. Remember that history is incredibly important.”
Noem is widely seen as a potential rival — or running mate — to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. This week, she released a memoir, Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland, and gave speeches to the group Heritage Foundation think tank and National Conservative Student Conference in Washington.
At the latter event, she was joined by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, apparently working for her again after a brief hiatus, and she had a casual chat with reporters where questions included the decision to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed women the right to abortion.
A trigger law has gone into effect banning abortion in South Dakota except to save the life of a pregnant woman. Some conservatives in the state legislature wanted to go further, but Noem was hesitant, fueling speculation that she is softening her stance on the edges to broaden her national appeal.
On Thursday, she said she has no objection to women traveling out of state to get abortions elsewhere. “I don’t know of any lawmakers who are seriously interested in it and I certainly am not. And to be clear, even in South Dakota, if they were to have an abortion, even if the law doesn’t allow it, a woman would never be prosecuted. It would be the doctor who facilitated it and knowingly broke the law and not the women.
But Noem gave little solace to those who fear the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority will next attack the right to same-sex marriage. “I have never supported same-sex marriage as far as its legality in our state. For me, a lot of my faith has to do with this and the legal documentation of this. But I know a lot of people are still having these discussions.
Noem, the first woman to serve as governor in South Dakota and be re-elected this year, has withstood significant lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic and accused other state governors of “overstepping their authority. In her speech to the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, she also lambasted Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
“He, of anyone in this country, should never again be given a minute of airtime for the devastation he inflicted on so many families,” she said. “He destroyed their livelihoods, he destroyed the education of children – we have children who will always struggle because they were forced to wear masks which harmed their development. It is a tragedy what this man was allowed to do in the United States of America.
Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, has repeatedly hit back at his right-wing critics.
Last year he told the New York Times: “’Fauci has blood on his hands’ – are you kidding me? Here’s a guy whose whole life has been dedicated to saving lives, and now you’re telling me he’s like Hitler? You know, come on, guys. Be real.