The Steamboat Institute’s Philip Wegmann got Governor Kristi Noem to say two self-contradictory things during her appearance at his organization’s conservative Freedom Conference and Festival. First, Noem dismissed the whole crop of Republican Presidential candidates not named Trump for yelling, bickering, and disrespecting debate decorum:
“The first 15 minutes of that debate were extremely discouraging for me,” the South Dakota governor told RealClearPolitics, adding, “I do not conduct my job interviews for staff that way.”
It was a notable choice of words given that Donald Trump dismissed the debate as little more than an audition for his potential running mate and because Noem has expressed interest in joining the ticket of the former president as he seeks the GOP nomination a third time.
“We are electing the leader of the free world,” Noem told RCP during an on-stage interview at a policy summit hosted by the conservative Steamboat Institute. “When I watched what happened on that stage, the yelling and the lack of respect for the moderators, for me it was very disheartening.”
The immediate bickering, she said, “made it hard to watch the rest” [Philip Wegmann, “Amidst VP Talk, Noem Insists Debate Wasn’t Job Interview,” Real Clear Politics, 2023.08.27].
Gee, Kristi sounds like she’s describing the exact behavior of Donald Trump in every debate, political speech, and press conference he’s ever appeared in. Yet she backed him through two elections and hasn’t stepped out to say he’s disqualified himself from this third. Is she saving up her disavowal for when Trump comes and yells and shows disrespect during his Rapid City speech next Friday?
Some on the right fear that an overemphasis on cultural issues might alienate moderates and end up costing Republicans. “Social issues are incredibly important. We must fight and win the culture war,” said Kari Lakeearlier this year. Lake, the failed Arizona Senate candidate who is also reportedly on Trump’s short list of VP picks, added, “But the 2024 election will be all about fixing our economy and preventing World War 3.”
Noem rejected that dichotomy. She said national security ought to be “the biggest consideration” as voters make their decision because “we’re in such a dangerous unprecedented time,” and economics will be front and center because “families are being devastated” by the policies of the current White House. “But the social issues just are going to be a factor whether Kari Lake says they are or aren’t, whether anybody else in this country says they are or aren’t,” Noem said before adding that Democrats will force that kind of debate and use it “as a weapon to destroy people.” Her prescription for her party as they head into a presidential election year: “Be prepared to talk about them all because they’re going to be used” [Wegmann, 2023.08.27].
We Democrats would be more than happy to talk about nothing but the economy and foreign policy, because we’d win on those issues. That’s why Noem and other Republicans force the culture war debate and use abortion and gay rights and prayer in school as weapons to destroy people to whose defense Democrats are obliged to rise.
Wegmann appears to push the Noem for VP narrative. Her statements on debate etiquette and the culture war certainly help push that narrative, as Noem makes clear again that, like Trump, she’ll say the most contradictory, counterfactual crap she can concoct just to keep the voters from seeing what’s really going on.