Dear Sarah …
This open letter goes to the new global celebrity from Arkansas. Her name is Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
She is a former first daughter of the state and the apple of Mike’s and Janet’s eyes. Now she is the sacrificial first line of futile rationalization for a madman president.
Presidential press secretary is a job that pays $176,640 a year to stand before the cameras and microphones of the world and absorb the daily inquisition of the naturally suspicious and often hostile creatures of the major media.
It’s a challenging job normally. But Huckabee’s assignment is to represent unprecedented senselessness. It’s to enter a vortex daily to fashion against all odds some semblance of acceptability from whatever her boss might have transferred from his megalomaniacal disorder to his Twitter feed that morning.
As an old acquaintance and admirer, once asked by her father why I liked her but not him, I reach out to her now.
Dear Sarah, if I may: I well recall my first exposure to your considerable political skill.
In the first half of 2010, I ventured to watch a debate at the Bowen Law School in Little Rock of Republican primary opponents seeking the U.S. Senate nomination. You were campaign manager for then U.S. Rep. John Boozman, and you were representing him in his absence.
You outclassed those candidates in a way that your candidate, in his bland meekness and chronic timidity, couldn’t possibly.
Your combative and sarcastic edge—which came from a double whammy of genes—gave you the perfect dismissive tone as you ridiculed their assertions that your man, the decisive front-runner, had gone Washington on everybody as a congressman and was out of touch.
Give you a big old break, you said. There’s nobody more pure-dee Arkansas than the slow-talking, non-assuming and utterly decent regular-Joe you were representing.
You don’t get more real and everyday than John Boozman, you said.
What made your presentation powerful was its profound truth. Say what you will of Boozman. His recent representational malpractice as a U.S. senator on the issue of health care has had some of us saying a lot, and not nicely. But he is indeed unaffected. He is indeed decent. And he is consummately real and everyday.
There was BS to be called that night, and you called it, Sarah, and did it well. You were almost as glib as dad and almost as disdainful as mom.
But, alas, what makes your worldstage performances so flat these days is your transfer to the south of the BS line.
You clearly can well-defend a deserving politician. But no one could escape unscathed the predicaments into which Donald Trump abusively places you.
It’s beneath you and the political skills you once exercised to traipse out daily, quite probably under orders, to praise him for hiring working women like yourself or read letters from children flattering him. A one-time campaign manager for a U.S. senator finds herself demoted when she propagandizes for a self-obsessed president.
I understand Trump’s appeal to you, and that of your new job.
You come with a natural chip on your shoulder, inherited from both your parents. You grew up disdaining the Arkansas media—me, for example, perhaps especially—for ridiculing your family.
You believe the mainstream media’s norms are biased and hypocritically liberal. You enjoy that Trump has turned those norms on the mainstream media’s head.
Being committed to the conservative cause, you leapt at the chance to do this job. A rising political consultant could not possibly find a more prominent gig.
I’ve expressed sympathy for your now-daily plight. For that, I’ve been criticized by people saying I appear to be patronizing a little lady. They say no one made you take these 176,640 pieces of silver.
Perhaps they are right. But I can’t help thinking—indeed knowing—that you are better than what you are doing.
The compelling vigor with which you defended Boozman is lost when you’re told to say that Trump was addressing military readiness and costs, which he assuredly wasn’t, when he got a wild hair and decided in his egomaniacal frustration to throw some muscle around and kick transgender persons out of the military.
The compelling vigor with which you defended Boozman is lost again when you’re told to say that it’s not unusual for a boss to ridicule publicly a major deputy but keep the employee dangling on the job.
What you need, Sarah, is to restore to your life more Boozman—more pure-dee Arkansas—and to extricate yourself from the orbit of whatever alien and angry galaxy has infected you, not to mention all of us, with Trump.
I think you’d be happier and more at home back on the north side of BS and decency.
Come home to Arkansas and consult some Republican campaigns. French Hill looks like he may need some help.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.