Kristi Noem, potential 2024 contender, says Biden’s leadership style has emboldened Putin

Addressing a crowd at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California — where she was asked to outline a vision for the future of the Republican Party as part of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute’s Time for Choosing Speaker Series — Noem issued a point-by-point critique of Biden’s foreign and domestic policy agenda. She warned that Democrats “are about control” as they veer toward “socialist policies” and argued that the GOP must reaffirm its image as the party of freedom.
As she condemned Putin’s ruthless invasion of Ukraine, Noem said the world is “watching daily assaults on democracy, and they are a reminder to us all of President Reagan’s famous words: ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.'”

“Sadly, America’s president today is not fighting for our freedoms. He is not protecting our freedoms. In fact, Joe Biden is doing the exact opposite,” Noem said Wednesday. “If the leadership in the White House had reflected ‘peace through strength’ by supporting our military, by standing strong against Iran, North Korea and China, by not facilitating a devastating, disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan that resulted in the death of 13 American patriots, then we would not see an emboldened Putin.”

She argued that Biden’s energy policies — including his decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline — have further weakened America’s standing in the world by making the US even more dependent on rogue nations for oil and gas.
As she contrasted the leadership styles of Biden and his predecessor, Noem noted that she traveled to 17 states to campaign for former President Donald Trump — more trips, she said, “than any governor in America” — in part because she knew he would restore America’s dominance on the world stage. (Though Noem is widely viewed as a potential White House contender in 2024, she has said she would support Trump if he runs again and has demurred when asked about her own ambitions.)
But Noem did not address Trump’s frequent praise of Putin throughout his presidency or the fact that he delayed nearly $400 million of US military and security aid to Ukraine as he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden family business dealings — events that ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment.

In her speech Wednesday, she called Putin “an evil man, who like other dictators throughout history despises freedom and he hates those who seek it.” She praised Zelensky, stating he has “demonstrated his bravery to the world by his willingness to speak truth and fight for freedom for the Ukrainian people.”

As in many of her other speeches to conservative audiences over the past two years, Noem touted her hands-off approach to the coronavirus pandemic in South Dakota, including her early opposition to mask and vaccine mandates, as well as the fact that she never asked any business in her state to close during the pandemic.

She has often couched that approach as an effort to preserve the rights and freedoms of her constituents — noting on Wednesday, “We didn’t mandate anything.” She charged in her speech that other public officials “grabbed unconstitutional power over American families, workers, and students when a global pandemic gave them an excuse to do so.”

“Look from state to state and compare the difference between Republican and Democrat leaders. In Democrat states, families are devasted financially from mandates and closures,” Noem said. “Having lost precious time in the classroom, kids have fallen behind; economies have been crippled by regulations and restrictions.”

As she has raised her public profile nationally and within the Republican Party, Noem has been at the forefront of the culture war debates on issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights and education — and she touted those efforts Wednesday night.

She signed a bill in mid-March that would require pregnant women to make at least three trips to a clinic to procure abortion medication, though the requirement won’t take effect until a pending federal court case is resolved.

In February, Noem signed “fairness in women’s sports” legislation that decreed that “only female students, based on their biological sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls.” The law, which takes effect this summer, defines “biological sex” as the gender listed on a birth certificate “issued at or near the time of the student’s birth.”

On Wednesday night, she called it “the strongest bill in the nation to protect girls sports,” saying, “It is about fairness — about giving young women an opportunity to succeed.”

South Dakota restricts teaching of critical race theory in schools
Noem has also been a frequent critic of critical race theory — an academic framework for studying the history of inequality and racism in the US — and this week, she signed an executive order to restrict the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts” in K-12 schools.

Critical race theory is generally not included in grade school curriculum, but last month Noem signed a bill barring the state’s public universities from requiring students or faculty members to adopt or adhere to what the legislation defined as seven “divisive concepts.”

Though critics of the recent legislation back home have argued that it would limit free speech and the ability to teach a wide array of theories, Noem said Wednesday that it was the left that “wants to criminalize dissent when someone raises legitimate questions” about teachings like critical race theory.”

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