Longtime Trump confidante and press secretary Sarah Sanders announced recently that she is leaving the position at the end of June and heading home to Arkansas. Ordinarily, the first question on everyone’s mind would be, who is going to replace her?
Not very many people seem concerned about who will take over the job because the job really hasn’t existed for some time. Sanders has not held a briefing in months. Reporters have said the podium in the briefing room literally has a thick coating of dust on it.
Sanders and Trump have both justified the dearth of press briefings by claiming this is the most accessible White House ever, but by means other than the traditional regular briefing. I guess if you consider Tweets, a few seconds of off-the-cuff remarks and regular appearances by administration figures on only Fox News to be “accessibility”, this claim would sit well with you.
Most of us know it’s sheer malarkey.
There is no substitute for a regular briefing and the accountability it brings — to both the White House and the press corps. Reporters can ask questions about the issues of the day and get detailed answers. The White House in turn can use the podium to both amplify its message and to live up to its obligation of transparency in governance.
Of course, with this White House, transparency is utterly laughable. This is an administration chock full of unethical people who think nothing of engaging in nonstop deflection, back-stabbing, buck-passing and outright lying. That includes Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer wasn’t very good at the job. He wasn’t an effective messenger for the administration and he fumbled a lot. And yes, he too lied shamelessly. At least he had the guts to stand at the podium and face the press — and by extension, we the people.
Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon’s press secretary, had a boss who loathed the press. Years before Trump, Nixon saw the press as his mortal enemy and had no qualms about making his hatred of them known. In retrospect, given how the press played a huge role in revealing his complicity in the Watergate coverup, he had reason to hate and fear them.
However, Ziegler still went out in front of the press on a regular basis, stood at the podium, and did his job, even when Nixon lambasted him for it.
Sarah Sanders was probably never really the press secretary anyhow. Ever the egotist, Trump believes he is his own best messenger. Sanders has served mostly as Trump’s second mouth with not even the slightest pretense of fulfilling the press secretary’s obligations to the press, and to the people both the press and the administration are supposed to serve.
Sanders once said she wanted her legacy as White House press secretary to be one of honesty and transparency. Once your head stops spinning, feel free to laugh at the irony of that statement.