The New York Times published a striking anecdote over the weekend, noting South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) efforts to get Donald Trump to visit Mount Rushmore for a 4th-of-July event. The article noted:
After all, the president had told her in the Oval Office that he aspired to have his image etched on the monument. And last year, 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?
It's one of those details that's both utterly predictable and entirely amazing.
The same article added that Noem privately tried to charm the president with a gift when he visited her state last month: "Ms. Noem greeted him with a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a fifth presidential likeness: his."
On Twitter, Trump claimed the reporting is "fake news," but he added that he's so impressed with his accomplishments that adding his likeness to Mount Rushmore "sounds like a good idea" to him.
The original reporting, the president's denial notwithstanding, is very easy to believe. Trump first started talking publicly about joining Mount Rushmore just six months after taking office, and a year later, he brought it up against during an Oval Office meeting with Kristi Noem -- at the time a member of Congress running for governor.
"He said, 'Kristi, come on over here. Shake my hand,'" Noem said, according to a report in the Argus Leader. "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?'"
Noem laughed, assuming Trump was kidding. He wasn't.
"I started laughing," she said. "He wasn't laughing, so he was totally serious."
As presidential preoccupations go, this is bizarre, but for those concerned about Trump succeeding on this front, it's probably best for all concerned to lower expectations.
Maureen McGee-Ballinger, public information officer at Mount Rushmore, told the Argus Leader in the spring that these questions are common, but the answer is always the same.
"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."