Dana Milbank at the Washington Post ventures a guess as to why Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants the cameras off during press briefings.
It’s easy to see why Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants the TV cameras off during her White House news briefings.
There is, for one, the matter of her boss constantly proclaiming things that range from the inexplicable to the patently wrong. There’s also the metastasizing Russia scandal, which keeps rendering previous Trump White House statements inoperative, as Richard Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler used to say.
But above all is a more simple explanation: Sanders has no earthly idea what’s going on in the White House she purports to represent.
And so, at Monday’s off-camera briefing, she stood on the podium, frequently cocking her left eyebrow and raising the left corner of her lips to convey displeasure at the line of questioning. Then, as frequently, she opened her mouth and, with a heavy Arkansas twang, said a lot of nothing.
Here are a couple of examples.
The Post’s Philip Rucker asked about other Trump campaign meetings with Russians such as the newly discovered one in which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort reportedly sought the goods on Hillary Clinton. “I am not sure,” she said. “I’ll check and get back to you.”
After several more such exchanges …
Then came a barrage of questions about Donald Jr.’s newly reported meeting with the Russians, which negated, as CBS’s Major Garrett noted, the White House’s “long history of blanket denials” that there had been campaign contacts with the Russians.
“There was simply no collusion,” she said, eyebrow cocked and lip corner raised.
“That’s a different question,” Garrett pointed out.
Sanders repeated that there wasn’t any collusion.
The kerfuffle over the White House briefings is misplaced. The Trump White House move to have fewer briefings and to move them off camera is just a symptom. The real problem is that the people giving the briefings don’t have a clue; they can’t, as Trump put it, “stand at podium with perfect accuracy.”
Or a semblance of dignity. The humiliations that ruined Sean Spicer will do the same to Sanders or whoever fills the role. Trump doesn’t seem to tell his people what he’s doing, if he knows himself. ABC News’s Jon Karl published a list last month of 26 times Sanders and Spicer said they would “get back to you” but never did. There are, surely, many more.
In fairness to Sanders, there are no good answers to these questions. Trump, with his reckless tweets and nonsense claims, leaves his mouthpieces in an impossible position. No less an authority than former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said after Trump’s vulgar tweet about Mika Brzezinski that “he makes my daughter’s job very difficult.”
But that’s no excuse. Sanders has agreed to interpret the nonsensical and to rationalize the indefensible. Like Spicer, she will fail.
Reason #3: “eyebrow cocked and lip corner raised”
Sarah Sanders Huckabee, from the moment I first saw her on a televised briefing, reminded me of someone in public life who had the same mannerisms. It took a while but I finally figured it out: John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon’s assistant for domestic affairs. Ehrlichman was one of the Nixon staff who got caught in the Watergate scandal and served time in prison. This photo is as close as I could get but there are better examples of Erhlichman’s mannerisms out there.