I recall that back in 2008, when Barack Obama was running for President, conservatives rained fire on his wife Michelle for saying, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.” The criticism ringing out from Fox News shouters contended that not being proud of America at any point in one’s life makes one (and one’s spouse!) a bad American.
Cue part-time Governor and full-time campaigner Kristi Noem, out of state again for the weekend, making a Presidential campaign speech to likely fellow critics of the Obamas in Iowa:
Noem charged into Iowa on Friday singing a battle hymn and armed with barbed comments for her fellow GOP governors. At a conservative gathering in Des Moines, she told the crowd she “really hate[s] this America” under President Joe Biden’s leadership, then led them in singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” [Stephen Groves, “South Dakota’s Noem Taking Swings at Potential 2024 Rivals,” AP via Yahoo News, 2021.07.17].
Michelle Obama caught heck for implying that in the past she had not felt “proud” of America, even though at the time she made her comment, at the time she was working to help her husband become President, she had found that pride. Kristi Noem is seeking to become the Commander-in-Chief herself, and she herself is saying that, right here, right now, she “hates” America.
What analogies shall we try here?
Suppose you’re hiring someone to work in your grain elevator. Somehow you hear one applicant’s spouse say, “For the first time in my adult life, I really like this grain elevator company.” You shouldn’t give a good gosh darn about your applicants’ spouses’ attitudes, but if the spouse’s comment has any relevance at all, you think, “Hmmm… I could infer that in the past, she didn’t like our grain elevator, but past schmast; if she likes our company now, that means she and her spouse might have nice conversations about work over dinner that will help him do the job for us, so put another plus in his column.”
Then another applicant—the actual applicant, not her spouse—walks in (thirteen years after you heard that largely irrelevant comment from the spouse of the guy you ultimately hired, the guy who came in and did a bang-up job for eight years, the guy whose brother you just hired on a four-year contract) and writes on her résumé, “I really hate this grain elevator.” You don’t call her back for an interview.
Or suppose you’re judging the Miss America pageant. Miss Illinois has a boyfriend who writes on his blog that he used to think America was a sexist, racist country but that he’s proud to see more Americans standing up against prejudice and hatred and trying to rectify systemic discrimination. You probably don’t even know Miss Illinois’s boyfriend wrote that on his blog, because he’s not on the stage twirling flaming batons in high heels and because there’s no column on your scorecard for “Stuff Her Boyfriend Says.”
But then Miss South Dakota rides onto the stage on her horse and declares on live national television, “I hate this America!” She might as well be signing a formal withdrawal from the pageant. Under no circumstances can you put the crown on her angry head.
Kristi’s coach Corey Lewandowski has been making money on posters branding her as “America’s Governor.” But “America’s Governor” hates America. If the conservatives Kristi is courting apply the same principles to her words that they applied to Michelle Obama, Noem 2024 is dead.