In this world, there are a fair number of people who aren’t good at their jobs. But I think it would be impossible to find a group who, collectively, are as bad at their jobs as the members of the White House press corps. We see this every time the long-suffering Sarah Sanders gives a press briefing. It is rare for a reporter to ask a question to which he or she actually expects an answer, or which possibly could make news of any kind. Generally, the “questions” are merely an opportunity for reporters to demonstrate their hatred for a Republican administration. This may be therapeutic for them, but beyond that, what is the point?
Yesterday’s press briefing was a case in point. Pretty much the only thing reporters wanted to talk about was Steve Bannon. This was the first question, and Sanders’ response:
Q The President says that when Steve Bannon was fired, “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” Does he feel betrayed by Steve Bannon? Does he regret hiring him?
MS. SANDERS: I think the President’s statement is extremely clear what his position on Mr. Bannon is. It was pretty lengthy and pretty detailed, and there’s not really much to clarify or to add.
True. But that didn’t stop the reporters from asking many more questions about Bannon. One wonders, to what end?
Q But is there regret there? I mean, he said a lot in this book. And they did have a long and close working relationship. So is there a sense of betrayal?
Q Sarah, when is the last time the President talked to Steve Bannon? And this is a serious question: Is the President now blocking Steve Bannon from calling his cell phone?
Q And what does this mean to the base that these two powerhouses are fighting in the Republican Party? What does this feud do to the President’s base?
“Two powerhouses”? Ridiculous. Sanders answered this one:
MS. SANDERS: I don’t think it does anything to the President’s base. The base and the people that supported this President supported the President and supported his agenda. Those things haven’t changed. The President is still exactly who he was yesterday as he was two years ago when he started out on the campaign trail. He agenda hasn’t changed, and he’s continuing to fight for and push for that agenda.
And I think the base is extremely excited and happy with the job that this President has done in his first year in office. Look at all he’s accomplished. I think they’re pretty happy with where he is.
Excellent answer. Then, of course, it was back to Bannon and the famous “alt-right.”
Q Steve Bannon has a distinct following: the alt-right and some people who may not necessarily be for the other; people who are xenophobic. What happens there?
There were many more Bannon questions, but I will offer just two more:
Q Will you take us through the drafting of the statement that the President issued today? It’s rather lengthy. Did he write it in his own hand? Did he dictate it?
President Trump’s statement on Steve Bannon is like the Gettysburg Address, apparently.
MS. SANDERS: Look, these are the President’s words. I think they’re very clear, and there’s not much to add beyond that.
Q And if I could follow up: Is the President looking for an apology from Steve Bannon? What is he looking for, in the future, from Steve Bannon?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t think anything.
Sarah Sanders probably isn’t the world’s most long-suffering woman, but she is a contender.
The non-Bannon questions were about such matters as whether the president’s son committed treason–huh?–and whether Trump’s tweets are likely to cause a nuclear war:
Q Did the President’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., commit treason?
The unidentified reporter who asked this question is a moron. What did he think Sanders would answer, Yes? And, of course, it is idiotic to suggest that anything Donald Jr. did–he had a meeting with a Russian!–constitutes treason. (I will say, though, that it is nice to see that liberals are now opposed to treason. Until recently, they tended to favor it.)
Q Finally, quickly, if I can ask you about the tweet about nuclear threats — the nuclear button tweet. Should Americans be concerned about the President’s mental fitness that he appears to be speaking so lightly about threats regarding a nuclear button?
Again, did the reporter think Sanders would respond, “Good point!”? North Korea is a fertile source for press corps stupidity.
Q Just one more. What does it say about the President’s priorities that he unleashed a four-paragraph statement about Steve Bannon and one tweet on North Korea?
MS. SANDERS: The President has issued a number of statements, as have I, as have the administration — Ambassador Haley, Secretary of State, Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense — have all talked extensively about North Korea. To try to limit it down to one tweet is just disingenuous.
But being disingenuous is what the White House press corps is all about. Here, Sanders’ answer is excellent:
Q And I want to follow up very quickly on North Korea. There’s been some folks in town who’ve said, listen, it doesn’t help, despite the idea being we’re going to be forceful, we’re going to push back. Some have said it doesn’t help when the tweets come out the way they do. And yet, we know that the President has made clear, ‘I am who I am, I’m going to tweet the way I want to tweet.’
Has there been any consideration that tweets like the one on North Korea actually don’t advance the agenda, meaning working with other partners in the region?
MS. SANDERS: I think what didn’t help was the complacency and the silence of the previous administration. This is a President who leads through strength, and he’s going to do that and he’s going to focus on everything that he can do in order to keep Americans safe, and he’s not going to be pushed around by the leader of North Korea.
Our policy with North Korea has not changed. We’re fully committed to continuing to apply maximum pressure and working with all of our partners in the region including South Korea, who we have a better relationship now than ever before. We’re going to keep working with them and keep pushing forward, and hopefully North Korea will start making better decisions.
Naturally, the press corps couldn’t resist the “nuclear button” scandal:
Q The President knows that there’s no actual one nuclear button. You’re saying it is actually bigger. But the reality is —
MS. SANDERS: The President is very well aware of how the process works and what the capacity of the United States is. And I can tell you that it’s greater than that of North Korea.
You would think that this kind of exchange would cause the reporter to feel humiliated, and lead to better questions in the future. But you would be mistaken. Two more questions. First, this:
Q The President enjoyed a slight bump in popularity when he was down in Florida golfing. I’m sure you saw this. Is it possible that Americans like him more when he is out of the news and not tweeting?
Sanders spiked this one back into the reporter’s face:
MS. SANDERS: I think Americans like the fact that he got the largest tax cut in history done. I think they like the fact that they’re going to see a lot more of their paycheck. I think they like the fact that American companies are investing back in this country and not other ones. I think they like the fact that American companies are now giving out massive bonuses across the board.
We’re seeing every single day more and more companies announce decisions like that. I think that’s what most Americans certainly were very happy about, particularly as they went into the holiday season, and they had a little bit more money to consider spending as they celebrated Christmas with their family.
The insanity went on and on, but let’s close with one more:
Q In the past day or so, we’ve seen President Trump attack the press, the Justice Department, and now his former ally, Steve Bannon. By attacking critics and key institutions in our democracy, isn’t the President engaging in authoritarian behavior?
This pretty well sums up the liberal view. Everyone under the Sun can attack Trump (or any other Republican), call him a Nazi, a fascist, say he hates people of color and is trying to kill them, accuse him of wanting to start a nuclear war, you name it. Complete insanity. But if Trump responds–not in kind, he hasn’t called anyone a Nazi or accused anyone of trying to start a war–he is an “authoritarian” and a threat to the republic.
Sarah Sanders gets the last word, in response to that “question.”
MS. SANDERS: Not at all. The President is simply responding often to news of the day. I think if the President can’t respond aggressively to an individual like the leader of North Korea that continues to threaten Americans, then that’s a dangerous place that we don’t want to go down.
Q We’ve seen both you and the President call for critics to be fired from their jobs. That’s —
MS. SANDERS: I don’t think it’s necessarily critics. We’re certainly happy for people that have different opinions, but there is a difference between different opinions and different facts. And people are entitled to an opinion but they’re not entitled to their own facts. And we have a big problem with people putting out misleading information. Those are very different things.
One is left to wonder, why do we have a White House press corps? Does it serve any function? Does it actually inform Americans? Does it do anything that the Democratic National Committee couldn’t do just as badly?
The United States is afflicted, unfortunately, with many failed institutions. The White House press corps is near the top of that list.