delusions of grandeur

Yes, Trump Actually Did Want to Be Added to Mount Rushmore

It’s one elite club the vainglorious Trump will never be able to join. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Back in 2018, then South Dakota Republican representative Kristi Noem recounted how when she met President Trump for the first time in the Oval Office in 2017, he told her that it was his dream for his face to end up on Mount Rushmore. She laughed in response, but apparently Trump wasn’t joking:

He said, “Kristi, come on over here. Shake my hand.” I shook his hand, and I said, “Mr. President, you should come to South Dakota sometime. We have Mount Rushmore.” And he goes, “Do you know it’s my dream to have my face on Mount Rushmore?” I started laughing. He wasn’t laughing, so he was totally serious.

When the president later brought up the idea again at one of his rallies that same year, he claimed he was joking, then complained that the media would report that he said he thinks he should be on Mount Rushmore. It should come as no surprise that it now seems clear that Trump really does think that.

On Saturday, the New York Times published a report about how Vice-President Mike Pence has apparently seen Noem, now South Dakota’s governor, as a possible threat — worrying that Trump might replace him with her in order to theoretically improve the president’s chances at winning reelection this fall. Palace infighting aside, last year, according to the Times, “a White House aide reached out to the governor’s office with a question, according to a Republican official familiar with the conversation: What’s the process to add additional presidents to Mount Rushmore?”

Then, when Trump traveled to South Dakota to celebrate the July 4 holiday and give a divisive speech at Mount Rushmore, Noem — who has been getting advice from former 2016 Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — tried to grant the president’s wish, at least in miniature:

In private, the efforts to charm Mr. Trump were more pointed, according to a person familiar with the episode: Ms. Noem greeted him with a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a fifth presidential likeness: his.

Sadly for Trump, one of the reasons Noem originally laughed at his dream in the Oval Office, and laughed about it again as she recounted the story a year later, is that most South Dakotans already know that adding another face to the monument is not physically possible — as the Argus Leader pointed out when writing up Noem’s funny Trump tale:

Maureen McGee-Ballinger, public information officer at Mount Rushmore, said workers are asked daily whether any president can be added. And for years, people have suggested Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, among others. A website — — advocates for Obama.

“There is no more carvable space up on the sculpture,” McGee-Ballinger said. “When you are looking on the sculpture, it appears there might be some space on the left next to Washington or right next to Lincoln. You are either looking at the rock that is beyond the sculpture (on the right), which is an optical illusion, or on the left, that is not carvable.”

In response to the claim about a White House aide asking about adding a new face, the Times reported that a White House official “noted that it is a federal, not state, monument” — thus implying the Trump White House would never have made such an ignorant inquiry in the service of the president’s vanity.

Of course, it probably would be possible to carve another face into the Mount Rushmore — just not one of the same scale. Nevertheless, the dream apparently lives on:

Yes, Trump Actually Did Want to Be Added to Mount Rushmore