Monke: It is worth inviting Obama to North Dakota
In late June, I wrote a somewhat satirical column that generated more praise, criticism, website hits and social media chatter than anything I have ever written.
People still talk to me about it today.
It’s title: “Dear Mr. President, an invitation to visit North Dakota.”
I used sharply pointed — call it snarky, because a few of you already have — humor to breach the subject of why Obama has not visited North Dakota during his presidency and why he rarely, if ever, mentions the state despite all the positive things happening here.
Some people loved it. Others wanted my head on a platter. A few joked that my name is probably on a few watch lists and my application to MSNBC had been thrown in the trash.
But the invitation wasn’t real. I never sent it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It was only meant to raise a point.
However, an invitation to North Dakota sent from Rep. Kevin Cramer to Obama in late October was very real.
The freshman Republican Congressman, in the first year of his first term, sent a formal invitation to Obama on a Friday. It took only four days for him to get shot down.
Cramer said he was more disappointed than shocked, especially about the timing of the response. He hoped the White House would let the invite gestate a bit before turning him down.
“There’s lots of things for him to see in North Dakota,” Cramer said plainly when we spoke on the phone Wednesday.
The Congressman said he wants to show Obama western North Dakota, and how the oil industry has created a population and economic boom unlike any seen in recent U.S. history. He also wants to see the president visit a military base and a farm.
I laughed a little at Cramer’s farm comment before realizing it might not be a bad idea for the city-raised and Ivy League-educated president to visit a North Dakota farm or ranch while Congress goes back and forth over the drafting of a new farm bill which stands to affect not just every person in our state, but everyone across the country in some form or fashion.
I also am not the only media member who believes Obama is missing out on his own country’s history by rejecting opportunities to visit to our state.
In late August, not long after her visit to western North Dakota alongside Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Washington-based National Journal correspondent Amy Harder wrote a column titled, “Why won’t Obama visit North Dakota?”
She led off the column, datelined from Dickinson, with the following phrase: “North Dakota is like an overachieving child who attracts the attention of everyone — except Dad.”
Cramer isn’t the first state politician to invite Obama to North Dakota either. Heitkamp, a Democrat, told Harder she has invited the president here in the past but Obama, “said he wouldn’t come in the winter.”
Good one Mr. President. And none of us would blame you.
Now, you may be wondering why I feel it is such a big deal to get the president to visit western North Dakota.
After I wrote my initial column, one Facebook commenter asked, “Why would we want him to come here?”
Cramer said he heard some of the same commentary.
“I’ve taken more criticism for inviting him than I have anything from people because they’re so mad at him,” Cramer said. “You can be mad at a guy or disagree with a guy. But the President of the United States?”
He said the last sentence with dismay, as he added while a majority of North Dakotans may not agree with the president’s politics, they should understand that he is still the president and those who love their state and their country should want him to see what is happening here.
Me? I truly and honestly want to see the president visit North Dakota because I believe it is his duty as the person who matters the most in our society to stay informed about what is happening in one of his most important states.
Sure, we may not have voted for him but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist.
We’re still here and producing large amounts of two commodities of which this country consumes a great deal: food and oil.
Almost all of North Dakota’s rise to prominence as an oil-producing state and an island in a sea of economic trouble happened during Obama’s presidency.
Isn’t it worth his time to see what all the fuss is about?
Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him at monkebusiness and read his past columns and features at monke.areavoices.com.