From a Dead Dog to a Made-Up Meeting: Takeaways From Kristi Noem’s Book

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In one sense, Kristi Noem has had a wildly successful rollout of her new book: America can’t stop talking about it.

But all the chatter is not for the reasons Ms. Noem, the conservative governor of South Dakota, might have expected when she finished “No Going Back,” a memoir that recounts her political career. The book appears aimed at raising her profile as a MAGA loyalist while former President Donald J. Trump weighs his choices for running mate. Just a month ago, Ms. Noem had been widely seen as a contender.

Instead of talking up her conservative bona fides, however, Ms. Noem has spent the last week on national television defending a grisly account in the book in which she shoots her dog in a gravel pit. The killing of the dog, a 14-month-old wire-haired pointer named Cricket, has drawn bipartisan criticism and scrutiny.

The book, published on Tuesday, includes a number of other noteworthy details, some of which Ms. Noem has discussed in recent interviews. Here are five takeaways.

Ms. Noem’s account of her time in office — first as South Dakota’s sole House representative and then as governor — includes many stories that broadly criticize Republicans for their electoral failures, while also targeting figures who have drawn the ire of Mr. Trump.

She describes a phone conversation she had with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who dropped out of the Republican presidential primary race in March, claiming that Ms. Haley had threatened her because they were both prominent Republican women. Chaney Denton, a spokeswoman for Ms. Haley, has said Ms. Noem’s account of the conversation was inaccurate, and “just plain weird.”

Ms. Noem also blames Ronna McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, for the poor performance of Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms, and criticizes her for not supporting Mr. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen — though Ms. Noem herself writes in that section that “Trump lost in 2020.”

“We got lazy, and no one was held accountable,” she says, adding that Mr. Trump was wrongly blamed for Republicans underperforming. She also called out the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, though she says she has hope for 2024 and is “willing to help.”

Ms. Noem devotes a section of the book to RINOs — Republicans in Name Only — a favorite pejorative of Mr. Trump that he has deployed against critics within the party.

“In many ways, these political creatures are worse than some donkeys,” Ms. Noem wrote, referring to Democrats in that section as “donkeys.”

But Ms. Noem also takes a swipe at some Republicans on the far right in her party, saying that they have contributed to recent election losses.

“Losing sucks. But Republicans happen to be great at it,” she writes in one section, adding: “Candidates talk like crazy people, make wild claims, and offer big promises. And they lose. Of course, there are some crazy candidates, but I’m not talking about them. This is about good folks who choose the wide path of bomb throwing and parroting whatever’s on social media, as opposed to speaking rationally and humbly offering solutions.”

Ms. Noem has repeatedly defended her decision to kill her dog, Cricket, and her politically baffling choice to include the anecdote in her memoir.

In the book, she describes an incident where Cricket killed a neighbor’s chickens and tried to bite Ms. Noem as she sought to restrain the dog. After taking Cricket home and shooting her, Ms. Noem writes, “I realized another unpleasant job needed to be done. Walking back up to the yard, I spotted our billy goat.”

The goat, Ms. Noem writes, “was nasty and mean,” smelled terrible and often chased her children around. So she dragged him out to the gravel pit, too — but didn’t kill him with the first shot, and had to go back to her truck for more ammunition to finish the job.

In an interview with Sean Hannity last week, Ms. Noem said she had included the story in the book to illustrate the “tough, challenging decisions that I’ve had to make throughout my life.”

In an interview on “Face the Nation” on CBS on Sunday, Ms. Noem called attention to another part of the book in which she suggested that one of President Biden’s dogs, a bite-prone German shepherd named Commander, should also be put down.

In a section of the memoir discussing what Ms. Noem would do on her first day in office as president, she wrote that “the first thing I’d do is make sure Joe Biden’s dog was nowhere on the grounds (‘Commander, say hello to Cricket for me’).” Ms. Noem made a similar suggestion in her interview on Sunday.

“You’re saying he should be shot?” asked the CBS host Margaret Brennan.

“That what’s the president should be accountable to,” Ms. Noem replied. .

Ms. Noem writes in the memoir that she met with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, while serving on the House Armed Services Committee.

“I had the chance to travel to many countries to meet with world leaders — some who wanted our help, and some who didn’t,” she writes. “I remember when I met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. I’m sure he underestimated me, having no clue about my experience staring down little tyrants (I’d been a children’s pastor, after all). Dealing with foreign leaders takes resolve, preparation, and determination.”

This was an error, according to Ian Fury, the chief of communications for Ms. Noem. Ms. Noem has said in later interviews that she takes “responsibility for the change,” but has not explained why the anecdote was included or whom she could have been referring to, if not Mr. Kim. She has also pushed back when the false anecdote has been characterized as a mistake.

“This is an anecdote that I asked to have removed, because I think it’s appropriate at this point in time,” Ms. Noem said in her interview on “Face the Nation.” “But I’m not going to talk to you about those personal meetings that I have had with world leaders.”

Ms. Noem heaps praise on the former president in her memoir, describing him as “a breaker and a builder,” writing, “He was relentlessly attacked for personal failures — and fictional ones — but stayed in the race and never wavered.”

She also reminds readers that she defended Mr. Trump in a speech the day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, “regardless of the fact that what unfolded on January 6 was undeniably ugly.”

At one point, she also says that Mr. Trump, “in some funny ways,” is similar to her young granddaughter.

“I see similarities between Trump and my granddaughter, Miss Addie (that’s what I call her),” Ms. Noem writes. “She’s almost three years old and, in my unbiased view, one of the most brilliant human beings I’ve ever met (tied for first place with my grandson, of course!)”

But while Ms. Noem may be angling for a place at Mr. Trump’s side as his running mate, she insists in the memoir that if she is picked, it should not be because she’s a woman.

“I’m often asked by the national media if I think Donald Trump should pick a woman to be vice president,” Ms. Noem writes. “My answer is always about choosing the best people for the job.”

The final chapter of the book focuses not on any vice-presidential aspirations, but rather on what she would do on “Day 1” if elected president herself. It begins with a quote from Mr. Trump saying in December that if elected as president, he wouldn’t be a dictator, “except for Day 1.”

Along with putting federal property up for sale and convening a bipartisan working group on immigration, Ms. Noem writes, she would invite the Obamas and Bidens over to the White House for a screening of “The Grey,” a Liam Neeson film about battling wolves that she describes earlier in the book as among her favorites.



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