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Godspeed, Sarah Sanders

The outgoing press secretary was a breath of fresh air

June 14, 2019

11:33 AM

14 June 2019

11:33 AM

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, announced yesterday on Twitter that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, would be departing her job at the end of the month. He later, at a press conference about a new program to help felons reenter the work force, praised her as a ‘magnificent person’ who has done ‘an incredible job.’ Taking the podium, Ms Sanders expressed her admiration for the president and his agenda and said, tears in her eyes, that working for him had been ‘the honor of a lifetime.’

Pretty straight forward, right?

Wrong. The press hates Sarah Sanders. Like its hatred for Donald Trump, the detestation is reflexive, visceral, and in the deepest sense aesthetic, a matter of immediate feeling. I’d say that it was rooted in a difference of personal style, but, though true, that designation does not express the almost physical revulsion that both people inspire in the preening mandarins of the press and their bureaucratic enablers among the self-appointed guardians of the administrative state.

I greatly admire Sarah Sanders. I think she is a breath of fresh air. Obviously loyal to the president and enthusiastically supportive of his agenda, she did what any good press secretary does: she was an effective ambassador of the president and his agenda to a hostile country, the media. She was there partly to explain policy but also, and just as important, to smooth ruffled feathers, cater to feelings of self importance, and spin questions and objections in a direction favored by the president. She helped to provide the most flattering light for his policies and pronouncements. That’s what press secretaries do.

It has been amusing to watch the press rev up its outrage machine to castigate Ms Sanders on the occasion of the announcement of her departure. At a moment that might have been greeted by graciousness, the jackals of the press united to run her down. Sarah Sanders ‘failed in almost every aspect of the job,’ screamed the failing anti-Trump network CNN. Students of rhetoric will want to savor the way the Guardian, an almost comically left-wing redoubt, began its hostile account of the news of Ms Sanders’s departure.

‘Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, has become the latest official to leave Donald Trump’s volatile administration, but in an emotional farewell she insisted: “I love the president.”

Sanders, a bitterly divisive figure who has not held a press briefing for a record 94 days…’

Note the strategy: by saying that Sanders is ‘the latest official’ to leave the Trump administration, the report hints at some systemic failure. In fact, people come and go from the notoriously high pressure jobs at the White House. Similarly, Trump’s administration is described as ‘volatile,’ as if that were necessarily a bad thing and not just a characteristic of his dynamic and ostentatiously productive administrative. The hand of the master is really revealed by the deployment of ‘but’: Sarah Sanders, like so many others, is leaving a ‘volatile’ situation but she insisted — ‘insisted,’ mind you, not just ‘said’ — that she ‘love[s] the president.’ She only insisted, you see, because she doesn’t really love the president. No, she is, the writer of this wretched column insinuates, a bad person — ‘bitterly divisive’ in fact, a press secretary who has ‘not held a press briefing for a record 94 days.’

What should we think of this tissue of implication and innuendo? I think badly of it. Sarah Sanders was ‘bitterly divisive’ only to those, like the oily narcissist Jim Acosta, who cannot open their mouths without announcing their disdain for the president and, by proxy, his aides.

Many of the press reports about Sanders’s departure accused her of lying. It is certainly true that this press secretary, like every other press secretary in the annals of history, spun things for the benefit of the president. Had she not done this, she would not have been doing her job. That said, I thought Sanders was as candid as the the job permitted, not less so than other incumbents of that august office, and much more truthful than the lying press that presumed to criticize her for dishonesty.

A lot was made of the fact that the president said that she had been with him for three-and-a-half years. ‘But you’ve only been president for two-and-a-half years,’ the slobbering dwarfs intoned in unison. ‘Liar, liar, liar!’

But it is clear that the president meant that Sanders had been with not only during his tenure at the White House, which began on January 20, 1017, but also during his campaign, which began more than a year before. The entire incident of attempted rhetorical arson was as repellent as it was pointless, since what mattered was not the number of days and weeks that she had been with the president but rather his acknowledgment of unbroken loyalty and generous public service over a long period of time.

Then we come to another leitmotif in the anti-Sanders orgy that has so delighted the anti-Trump stalwarts commenting on Sanders’s departure. I mean the fact that she long ago dispensed with daily press briefings. ‘Other press secretaries and the administrations they served have catered to us, why don’t you?’

Here I come to a melancholy truth that, being of a charitable disposition, I hesitate to impart to the yapping pack of sensitive and entitled scribes who have closed ranks against the president and his staff. It is this: Donald Trump does things differently from other presidents. You may have been used to being fed pabulum daily by previous administrations, some of which you treated with hostile disdain, some with uncritical adulation.

But nowhere, except in the odiferous annals of your inflated self-importance, is it written that you are entitled to daily, weekly, or monthly press briefings. I know that is a blow to your vanity, but there it is. Mirabile dictu, the republic survives, even in the face of your neglect. The truth is, as any dispassionate observer will acknowledge, that Donald Trump and Sarah Sanders have treated the press with far more courtesy and candor than they have treated them.

What the press cannot abide is their continued existence: that Donald Trump is still, even now, even after they, thundering bullfrogs of the press, have laid out their objections to an indifferent populace. How could they, the ingrates. And now a Trump loyalist is departing. Let’s hound her on the way out and exhibit just how small, ungracious, and craven we are.

As Donald Trump said, Sarah Sanders is a brave and generous-hearted woman, a ‘warrior’ whose hem the mirror-gazing minions of the press are unworthy to touch. They’ll read each other’s headlines and smirk, but that will be paltry gratification in the face of six more years of Trump and a justly proud and successful Sarah Sanders, who might just take Donald Trump’s advice and run for the governorship of the great state of Arkansas. Godspeed to her.


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