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Politics

Because Sarah sez so, that's why

Kathleen Parker on

WASHINGTON -- When White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked the press corps Monday to preface their daily briefing questions with a statement of thankfulness, reporters obliged.

Or, should we say, obeyed.

For this, no doubt, Sanders was grateful.

Yet again, she controlled the crowd, though this time by candy-coating her usual condescension with faux fellowship.

I'm thankful I wasn't in the room.

My first impulse when someone asks me to share is to not-share. This isn't because I'm not a sharing person -- you can have my cake and eat it, too -- but because sharing, like charity, should be voluntary. For a press secretary to require professional journalists to essentially beg for their supper, surrendering their adversarial posture like a dog commanded to Drop The Bone, is an infantilizing tactic. The effect is to neutralize the opposition.

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Yes, I said opposition. The press, by definition, is oppositional. As Mr. Dooley, the turn-of-the-century fictional bartender created by columnist Finley Peter Dunne is often paraphrased: "The newspaper's job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Yet, from the interplay between the media and the Trump administration, one would think reporters were supposed to be taking dictation. Seen and not heard. Sanders, whose persistently arched brows convey an air of constant disapproval, routinely brushes reporters' questions aside. During any given press briefing, one is likely to hear words to these effects:

"I think he addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday," she'll say. Or, "We don't have any announcement on that." Or my personal favorite, which came in response to a query about chief of staff and retired Gen. John Kelly's controversial remarks about Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, "If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that's something highly inappropriate."

One peers into Sanders' fantasy movie, where the reporter, abashed, shrinks into the folds of his trench coat, muttering, "What an impudent, incompetent fool am I!"

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