Many people spend large chunks of their lives trying to figure out what it is that they’re best suited for. For Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the only daughter of former Arkansas governor and twice-presidential contender Mike Huckabee, her political future never seemed to have been in doubt.
By the age of ten, Sarah was already volunteering for her father’s gubernatorial campaign. She rose through the ranks, serving as the national policy adviser to her father’s first presidential bid in 2008, and then as campaign manager in his 2016 attempt. With her father out of the race, Sarah joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser, and as Trump took office she was named principal deputy press secretary.
When Sean Spicer resigned from his position as White House press secretary in the summer of 2017, the role went to Sarah. At the age of 34, the mother of three became one of the youngest press secretaries in history, and only the third woman to hold this position.
Recently, Ami caught up with Press Secretary Sanders for an interview.
Q: Lately I don’t get too many opportunities to chat with you, and I’m sure it’s nice for you to get a break from being mistreated in the workplace by some of my colleagues.
A: That’s true. I’m doing great. I love my job and I love what we do. I think the president has had a tremendous two-and-a-half years of success, and we’re focused on having six more.
Q: You’ve been with the president since day one. Not a lot of White House officials have been there throughout the entire time. What is it about your relationship with the president that’s made you two work so well together?
A: I think it’s about understanding my role, and my goal is to support the president and help promote his agenda and his policies. No one elected me to anything, but 63 million Americans came out and said they wanted Donald Trump to be their president, and I was one of them. I spend my day figuring out how I can best serve him and help promote the message that he campaigned on.
Q: [Lately there haven’t been many press briefings.] Would it be fair to say that you are better positioned to promote the president’s agenda by not holding frequent press briefings?
A: I don’t think it’s about not holding press briefings. I still talk to reporters all day every day by email, texts, calls. At the same time, I think the president is his own best messenger and the president is talking to press on a regular almost-daily basis, answering questions, engaging with them, sometimes a number of times in one day. I think that’s a great thing. Anytime the American people get to hear directly from the president of the United States is the best thing that can happen.
Q: What I’m getting at is that there was a point throughout the first year or so of the presidency when it was determined that daily press briefing were beneficial to his message, and for the past eight or nine months it seems there’s been a change. In what way do you feel that [limiting press briefings] is beneficial?
A: I just think we have different approaches at different times. Again, I think the president has engaged a lot more over the past year. I think that’s a great thing. Whether it’s on Twitter or through interviews or through the Q&A events he does with reporters. You’ve seen that increase a lot over the last year, and it’s a great thing.
Anytime the people of the country get to hear directly from the president that’s a positive, and if he talks more I think it’s better for those of us who work for him to take a step back and let him deliver that message, because nobody does it better than he can.
Q: Shortly after he stepped down, your predecessor, Sean Spicer, told me he felt you were a better press secretary than he was. He said: “It wasn’t just dealing with the press. She had developed a strong relationship with the president and understood how to effectively navigate that relationship as well.” Can you tell us about your relationship with the president and how you effectively navigate it?
A: I think part of it is I had the advantage of going second. Sean was first so he had no road ahead of him and I did, so that helped. Look, I love what I do. I like the story that we’re telling. I think the president’s done an incredible job and I’m proud to be part of the administration that goes out and every day tries to help people. I think we’ve done a good job of doing that. And so to me it’s just telling that story.
Q: What is that story that American people should be hearing from the media but aren’t?
A: I would say the economy is booming. It’s benefiting all Americans. Not just one group but everybody. ISIS has been totally defeated. The judiciary is being remade. Regulations are being cut. We are becoming an energy-dominant country. We’re making better trade deals than ever before. And we’re putting the interests of our country first. I think that’s important because we haven’t had that in a long time.
Q: And it would probably be right to assume that the president will have an easier time carrying out his agenda without the Mueller distractions plaguing him anymore.
A: I think so. I think America will have an easier time. I think frankly they’re kind of tired of hearing about something that doesn’t impact them and finding out that everything the president said was exactly as he said it was.
A: In closing, your dad, Governor Huckabee, likes to relate the story of your first visit to Yad Vashem as a nine-year-old child and about the kind of impact it had on you. Can you tell us about the impact it had on you now as an adult?
Q: What you see depicted when you walk through Yad Vashem is horrific and is something that should never, ever take place at any point in human history. That was something that I learned at a very early age, and it’s one of those moments that you understand that good people have to be involved and they can’t sit by at any point when they feel that something is happening that they don’t agree with, whether on a small scale or on a large scale like we saw in Yad Vashem.
So for me I think that’s why being part of public service is important. You have to stand up for the things you believe in and you have to push for the things you think are right. l