Anonymously sourced reporting in the New York Times suggests that Donald Trump is cooling on his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sounds like she’s not uncivil enough for his taste. Also: A flurry of takes on civility in the era of Trump.
A summary in Talking Points Memo notes that Trump directed belated ire over her eviction from a Virginia restaurant mostly at the restaurant, but said little about Sanders except that she was a “fine person.”
The lukewarm response is a public display of private conversations and musings the President has reportedly been entertaining lately as he questions his press secretary’s toughness. Per the New York Times, ever since she did not walk out during comedian Michelle Wolf’s roast at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Trump has sustained doubts about her strength.
Those qualms have only intensified lately, as Trump has reportedly been asking around for people’s opinion of Sanders, a classic sign of his growing discontent with a staffer. He has also been threatening to “grade” her performances at the daily White House press briefings from now on, though some sources told the New York Times that he made the threat in jest.
The fickle President’s mercurial emotions are reportedly adding to a sense of unease in the White House, an atmosphere heightened by the recent string of public confrontations of Trump administration staffers, including Sanders.
The Times report suggests Trump unduly delayed a defense of Sanders after Friday night’s departure from the Red Hen in Lexington, Va.
Lie down with dogs (or lie for dogs) and you might get fleas. Or maybe flee.
PS: I’m happy to see others are noting the one-sided nature of the calls for civility. Where’s the concern trolling about the Insult Machine in Chief? Example from the former director of U.S. ethics office:
The calls for civility worry me because they're so 1-sided. No significant airtime was devoted to Sarah Sanders telling Jim Acosta that he couldn't understand simple sentences or Trump uttering what sounded like a threat of physical violence ("be careful what you wish for, Max"). https://t.co/KVvk43qZhv
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 26, 2018
And here’s a
I’m somewhat agnostic on the question of whether publicly rebuking Trump collaborators is tactically smart. It stokes their own sense of victimization, which they feed on. It may alienate some persuadable voters, though this is just a guess. (As we saw in the indignant media reaction to Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner routine, some pundits project their own concern with Beltway decorum onto swing voters, who generally pay less attention to the news than partisans.)
On the other hand, there’s a moral and psychic cost to participating in the fiction that people who work for Trump are in any sense public servants. I don’t blame staff members at the Virginia restaurant, the Red Hen, for not wanting to help Sanders unwind after a hard week of lying to the public about mass child abuse. Particularly when Sanders’s own administration is fighting to let private businesses discriminate against gay people, who, unlike mendacious press secretaries, are a protected class under many civil rights laws.
Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker also has a sharp view on civility and who deserves a seat at the dinner table.
And what about civility? Well, fundamental to, and governing the practice of, civility is the principle of reciprocity: your place at my table implies my place at yours. Conservatives and liberals, right-wingers and left-wingers, Jews and Muslims and Christians and Socialists and round- and flat-Earthers—all should have a place at any table and be welcome to sit where they like. On the other hand, someone who has decided to make it her public role to extend, with a blizzard of falsehoods, the words of a pathological liar, and to support, with pretended piety, the acts of a public person of unparalleled personal cruelty—well, that person has asked us in advance to exclude her from our common meal. You cannot spit in the plates and then demand your dinner. The best way to receive civility at night is to not assault it all day long. It’s the simple wisdom of the table.