Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving her job as White House press secretary at the end of the month.
What will President Donald Trump do without his top spokesperson? Will White House press briefings end without her?
That was a trick question. Press briefings already have ended. Arguably, they ended in a traditional sense so long ago, we have already gotten used to simply knowing less about what is happening with the daily grind of the administration. Even the president’s public schedule is an almost daily laugher. For example, the president has not had any documentable activity on his schedule before 11 a.m. since his departure from Ireland on June 7.
Whoops, let me correct that. He did leave to play golf before 11:00 last Saturday and Sunday. Otherwise, his mornings are occupied by “In-House Pool Call Time.” Americans have learned what that means: watching television and tweeting about it.
This week was a banner one for the White House messaging team. On Tuesday, Trump responded to reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had executed his own half brother for being an informant to the CIA. The American president said: “I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.” Putting aside Trump’s odd use of the word “auspices,” it certainly appeared that he was committing to Kim that he would not allow the CIA to spy on North Korea.
It’s the kind of comment a spokesperson would normally need to explain, walk back or spin. Of course, “normal” certainly is not what it used to be.
Trump’s best strategy for saying something as outrageous as siding with one of our nation’s most dangerous national security threats over our own top intelligence agency is to say something else that may be even more incredible.
On Wednesday, the American president said in a video interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he may not contact the FBI if a foreign power attempted to give him dirt on a political opponent. FBI director Chris Wray, testified to Congress just last month as to how that contact should be made. Trump first said “there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” to such information from a foreign power, and then went on to say in response to Wray that “the FBI director is wrong.”
To recap this episode, America has been listening to Trump repeat the phrase “no collusion” incessantly for the last two years. The Mueller investigation on that very behavior concluded in March. The U.S. House of Representatives is considering impeaching Trump for his behavior related directly to it. And now he is announcing his openness to collude, violate his constitutional oath and break clear and indisputable campaign finance laws.
These are the kinds of comments that could cause a spokesperson’s head to explode. They are indefensible on an epic scale. So, how does the Trump team respond to the barrage of questions and condemnations of his words? The spokespeople are silent, and the president tweets out his expected doubling down on why his whims are right and our rule of law is wrong.
Republicans in Washington are cringing. They should be. Like Sanders, virtually the entire group of GOP members of congress have also become spokespeople for Trump over the last two years. When the president says outlandish things like he has this week the party formerly known as the Grand Old Party now behaves as if they must go along with it.
They can’t just quit like Sanders has.
Wait a minute: yes, they can!
There will be life after Trump in American politics. I enthusiastically look forward to reacquainting myself with the politicians who have fallen in line with Trump’s madness. Will they pretend they didn’t? Will they return to conservative or, dare I say, American values?
Whatever his followers choose in the future, life after Trump will be equally fascinating to me. But for Sanders, her exit from her job at the end of June also appears to be her beginning. Suggestions that she return to Arkansas and prepare for a 2022 gubernatorial run were raised on Thursday. I assume a platform in that campaign will sound like a combination of her two dads: Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and her soon to be workplace one.
When asked if she regretted not having more press conferences, Sanders said no, and that she still believes they have been the most accessible White House ever. Anderson Cooper of CNN responded to that Thursday night with, “She may be leaving, but she’s still lying.”
Thank you for your service, Sarah. Good luck, and Godspeed.
Michael Leppert is a public and governmental affairs consultant in Indianapolis and writes his thoughts about politics, government and anything else that strikes him at MichaelLeppert.com