Monday, April 29, 2024

Dog gone

 It isn’t often that you see a politician destroy their career. Politicians often do stupid things and live on to fight another day, but at times, you just sense that a politician is done for. Over the weekend, we saw one of those events.

A few months ago, I wrote that Kristi Noem was one of Trump’s top picks for a running mate. The South Dakota governor was popular with the MAGA crowd and totally loyal to The Former Guy, undoubtedly his top qualification. But over the weekend, it all went wrong for Noem when The Guardian obtained an advance copy of her new book.

I could have put a picture of Kristi Noem here, but I thought I’d much rather have a picture of a wirehair pointer. (By Camtor Jr. - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Thank you for reading The Racket News ™. This post is public so feel free to share it.


In the book, “No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward,” which will be published next month, Noem tells the story of “Cricket, [who] was a wirehair pointer, about 14 months old.” The Guardian picks up the story:

She includes her story about the ill-fated Cricket, she says, to illustrate her willingness, in politics as well as in South Dakota life, to do anything “difficult, messy and ugly” if it simply needs to be done.

By taking Cricket on a pheasant hunt with older dogs, Noem says, she hoped to calm the young dog down and begin to teach her how to behave. Unfortunately, Cricket ruined the hunt, going “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life”.

Noem describes calling Cricket, then using an electronic collar to attempt to bring her under control. Nothing worked. Then, on the way home after the hunt, as Noem stopped to talk to a local family, Cricket escaped Noem’s truck and attacked the family’s chickens, “grabb[ing] one chicken at a time, crunching it to death with one bite, then dropping it to attack another”.

Cricket the untrainable dog, Noem writes, behaved like “a trained assassin”.

When Noem finally grabbed Cricket, she says, the dog “whipped around to bite me”. Then, as the chickens’ owner wept, Noem repeatedly apologised, wrote the shocked family a check “for the price they asked, and helped them dispose of the carcasses littering the scene of the crime”.

Through it all, Noem says, Cricket was “the picture of pure joy”.

“I hated that dog,” Noem writes, adding that Cricket had proved herself “untrainable”, “dangerous to anyone she came in contact with” and “less than worthless … as a hunting dog”.

“At that moment,” Noem says, “I realised I had to put her down.”

Noem, who also represented her state in Congress for eight years, got her gun, then led Cricket to a gravel pit.

“It was not a pleasant job,” she writes, “but it had to be done. And after it was over, I realised another unpleasant job needed to be done.”

But wait, there’s more! Noem goes on to talk about the second unpleasant job. She had a goat that smelled “disgusting, musky, rancid” and “loved to chase” her children. Noem took the goat to the same gravel pit and gave him the Cricket treatment.

We have had a farm and we’ve had both chickens and goats. We have also had dogs who liked to kill chickens.

I’ll grant that breaking a dog from killing chickens is next to impossible. Dogs like to chase things and chickens make fun targets for them. The dog’s interaction may start as playful, but once they get a taste of the chicken, the dog is often hooked.

When we had our farm, we had a string of dogs that loved to chase and kill chickens. We didn’t kill these dogs, however. The dogs were just doing what dogs do. That’s especially true of hunting dogs that are bred to chase birds.

What we did with chicken killers that proved to be untrainable was to rehome them. A dog that kills chickens and won’t hunt isn’t necessarily “worthless,” they can still become cherished family pets in homes that don’t have chickens.

Shooting healthy dogs is not typical farm behavior. In fact, the only similar case that I can recall was a few years ago when the mother of one of my son’s friends killed their family dog for questionable and likely psychologically manipulative reasons. The mom in that story ended up looking like a sociopath.

We also had goats. I can agree that goats are cute and playful when they are young, but male goats can grow into jerks. There are two ways to handle this problem short of killing the goat. One is to sell it and the other is to castrate it. Noem apparently didn’t try either method.

There has been some suggestion that Noem might be prosecuted for animal cruelty. This will not happen. She mentions her daughter, Kennedy, coming home from school after the killing. Kennedy is now 26 which supports Noem’s claim that the killings occurred about two decades ago. That is beyond the statute of limitations, but I do wonder if Kennedy learned that he mom killed her dog from the weekend news coverage.

Noem claims that she didn’t break the law at all. In posts to Facebook and the platform formerly known as Twitter, the governor said, “South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down.”

In the post, she also notes that Cricket had “shown aggressive behavior toward people by biting them,” but this is inconsistent with her account in the book, in which she only tells about Cricket killing chickens and says that the dog tried to bite her when she interrupted the attack.

Noem defends her actions, saying in social media posts, “I can understand why some people are upset about a 20-year-old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book — No Going Back.”

In another statement, she adds, “Whether running the ranch or in politics, I have never passed on my responsibilities to anyone else to handle. Even if it’s hard and painful. I followed the law and was being a responsible parent, dog owner, and neighbor. As I explained in the book, it wasn’t easy. But often the easy way isn’t the right way.”

Neither Cricket nor the goat had to be killed. The reader is left with the impression that Noem killed the animals because she wanted to. Regardless of whether the killings were legal, shooting the animals was a choice and there were other good options that Noem apparently did not try to pursue.

An even bigger question is why Noem decided to include such a personally damaging story in her book. She obviously thought that the story made her look good and doesn’t seem to have gotten any pushback from ghostwriters, proofreaders, editors, or anyone up the chain of publishing.

One has to wonder whether the bubble of confirmation bias surrounding Noem is so impenetrable by common sense that dog-killing is considered a political strength or if she was the victim of internal sabotage. Maybe she didn’t listen to advice to remove the story, or maybe her aides were secretly trying to scuttle her career.

As one wag on Threads speculated, “Elise Stefanik on the phone to Kristi Noem: ‘No no. You HAVE to put the Cricket story in there. I love that for you.’”

Killing Cricket was a questionable moral decision. Putting the story in a book when you’re hoping to get the vice-presidential slot brings up other questions about Noem’s judgment.

People on both sides of the political spectrum point to the trivial nature of the issue. Pro-life advocates point to the massive number of unborn babies killed in America while some on the left question why a dog’s death gets more attention than the victims of gun violence. Maybe they both have a point, but it’s also true that those issues are much more divisive. No one knows exactly where life begins and there are no easy solutions to gun violence, especially considering our constitutional right to bear arms.

But both sides love dogs. And both sides abhor cruelty to animals.

I’ve been surprised at how few Republicans are rushing to defend Noem. There aren’t many don’t-clutch-your-pearls-this-is-farm-life posts or charges that not shooting dogs is a symptom of wokism. In fact, many on the right seem to be done with her. Donald Trump might be able to shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, but Kristi Noem isn’t Donald Trump… and she didn’t shoot a man. (I have to wonder what would have happened if Noem had already been selected as Trump’s running mate when the news broke.) How many people have died because of US policy in [insert country here] without sparking bipartisan outrage?

I think a big part of the reason has to do with the human psyche. A story that is trivial but that establishes an emotional connection is more gripping than a more important story that is dry and unexciting. To put it another way, as Josef Stalin is reported to have said, “The death of one man is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic.”

It can be strange how some political careers can survive big errors and scandals and then be destroyed by something small and seemingly irrelevant. Voters can ignore weighty issues and decide an election based on factors like who they’d rather have a beer with or stories about tying a dog kennel on the roof of a car.

Sometimes, it’s a little slip that betrays a politician’s true nature. A callous remark or out-of-touch comment can turn the fickle masses against them in an irreversible movement. Some errors are too big to overcome.

It might be possible for Kristi Noem to convince America that she was right to kill Cricket, but, as the governor herself might say, my gut feeling is that dog won’t hunt.

Thank you for reading The Racket News ™. This post is public so feel free to share it.


Full disclosure: I wouldn't say I'm a dog lover, but I am a dog tolerator. My family owns three rescued dogs (Rocky, Ginger, and Baxter) who love to take me for walks.

As a palate cleanser, please enjoy one of Jimmy Buffett’s last songs, “Like My Dog.”

Share The Racket News ™

From the Racket News

No comments: