Stop the presses. Sarah Huckabee Sanders managed Sunday to make a fine mess of Trumpian apologia even on Fox News.
She traipsed over to the Fox studio on Sunday morning, which means she unfortunately came in through Fox’s brief window of journalism.
Sarah did not get dutifully indulged by a fellow Trumpian sycophant in the Fox stable, such as Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham. Instead she went on with Chris Wallace, who has a journalistic bloodline and combative journalist instincts and is sufficiently respected as an actual newsman that he was accepted as a moderator for one of the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debates in October 2016.
Wallace, darn him, researches things. He ventures into what the president would call “fake news,” which means accuracy and truth.
A trained regurgitator of tiny shards of out-of-context accuracy—which well-describes the job description of the occasionally competent Sarah—risks getting rebuffed by Wallace, as Sanders was on Sunday.
But to leave a deliberately false impression on a deadly serious matter—some would call that lying—is particularly perilous behavior on a live telecast across a desk from Wallace.
He’ll humiliate a liberal Democrat next week, perhaps. But it was Ouachita Baptist’s own Sarah whom he humiliated Sunday.
Sanders said—for purposes of contriving a justification for a southern border wall and a government shutdown—that we’ve endured about 4,000 known or suspected terrorists a year trying to sneak into our country, which is most vulnerable to such sinister entry at the southern border. She didn’t say 4,000 terrorists came in from Mexico, but she implied it.
Wallace said he happened to have looked up facts on that, and that those 4,000 were trying to come in through airports. He said the State Department has said there is no known evidence of known terrorists seeking to come in via Mexico across the southern border.
Customs and Border Patrol says that, in the first half of 2018, 41 persons whose names were on a terrorist suspect list—which is not to say they were terrorists—were detained for special screening at southern border points. It says 35 of those were American citizens. Sarah’s implication of 4,000 terrorists crossing the border was belied by government data of six persons on a suspect list for special screening.
“They come in by air, land and sea,” Sarah deflected, or tried to deflect.
And Wallace said, no, the data says they come in by air and not by land or sea.
Here’s the thing: It’s possible some terrorists have snuck in across our southern border and authorities don’t know that and have no figures thereon. But that’s not what Sanders said. She took an available government statistic on the most serious of topics and used it with deliberate and reckless misrepresentation for the benefit of her boss, this frightful excuse for a president.
That’s not just spin. It borders on the bald-faced.
Yes, I know that Bill Clinton lied about sexual relations with that woman. Yes, Hillary Clinton lied about … something, I can’t remember. Yes, Barack Obama said you could keep your health insurance if you liked it, and that wasn’t true for everyone.
But those lies don’t excuse any others. And they certainly don’t justify the veritable flood of bigger ones pouring daily out of a current White House that lives by them.
In early November, The Washington Post calculated that Trump had made 6,420 false or misleading claims over 649 days.
Come on. You could put Bill and Hillary together and they’d finish a distant second to that.
Sanders behaved only a little more poorly than Trump-cowed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who, now losing her White House defender in John Kelly, sought to please the madman-in-chief last week by saying we had detained 3,000 “special-interest aliens” at the southern border.
That phrase refers to innocent persons seeking entry who come from countries that have had terrorists in their populations and are therefore held up for a while.
It’s like Texas asking me to pull over at the state line to make sure I’m not connected to some infamous Arkansas mass murderer on the lam.
Sarah eventually told Wallace she was not disputing his facts. That was a euphemistic way of admitting that she’d lied.
But then she kept digging her hole. Throwing around those handy crutches called clichés—kicking the can, rolling the ball down the field, passing the buck—she said it remains so that these terrorists are trying to get in and we are most vulnerable to them at the southern border (whether the terrorists know it or not, apparently, and which might almost sound like an invitation).
For that matter, she said, we saw the murder of an American citizen recently committed on our soil by an illegal immigrant, and it’s those innocent American victims for whom the president is fighting, adding, and get a load of this: “We value life in America. It’s what sets us apart and makes us unique.”
Presumably, by Sarah’s accounting, Canada doesn’t value life, nor does Denmark, nor Switzerland, nor France, nor the United Kingdom, nor Japan, nor Iceland. And don’t be fooled, either, by kilts and bagpipes. In Scotland, they’d as soon kill you as offer you a whisky, if the press secretary to the president of the United States is to be believed, which she isn’t, anymore, if ever.
For that matter, you could more easily argue that other countries value life more, considering our gun-death rate and our death penalty—if you wanted, I mean, to get technical and engage in a touch of introspection.
I’ve asserted before that it’s time for Sarah, once such a promising young woman and political talent, to come home. But now I’m thinking it may be too late.
The midterms might have been her last best chance. She may now be caught up inescapably in the presidential meltdown.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.