Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom, and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House, by Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Eight stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #3 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

While I have made my political views quite well known over the years, I felt it only fair to look at things from the other side of the coin, seeking to better understand those who worked within the Trump White House and had a positive take on the man and his Administration. While her comments did, at times, leave me rolling my eyes, I cannot help but wonder what someone like Sarah Huckabee Sanders has to say about a life surrounded by politics and serving on the front lines during some of the most tumultuous days of those first few years under Donald Trump. Born in the heart of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee grew up with a strong connection to God and all the Lord had to offer. Her father was a local pastor who took a gamble at a time when Arkansas was in the midst of a Clinton Democratic wave to run for office as a Republican. While he did not succeed at first, he did eke out a victory soon thereafter and then was ushered into the position of governor during a scandal. Teenage Sarah may not have liked the need to move, but her eyes were surely opened when she ended up living in Little Rock. As Huckabee Sanders denotes, her time living under the shadow of the Clinton name started early and often, though she never let that define her. After successful public schooling and a passion for politics in college, Sarah moved to Washington to work within the massive bureaucracy, stopping only when it was time to support her father as he made a presidential bid in 2008. While Mike Huckabee was not successful, he instilled in his daughter the need to always work through any problems with aplomb, something that appears to have been a key theme for her professional life.

After marrying and starting a family of her own, Sarah returned to help her father on a second bid in 2016, a time when all attention was focussed on Donald Trump, leaving the elder Huckabee again on the wayside. However, both Mike and Sarah knew how to liaise with those in power and Trump offered Huckabee Sanders the chance to work on his campaign. The book explores some of the grittier sides of the campaign, with Huckabee Sanders pulling no punches about her dislike for the Clintons, rejoicing when the final results were in and Trump had emerged victorious. Throughout the book she reminds readers that there was no collusion and that it was all a Democrat smear campaign, early signs of true sycophancy. Hitting the ground running, Huckabee Sanders found herself in the Communications Office and spinning stories from Day One. From inaugural statistics to dismantling anything with an Obama scent, Huckabee Sanders did her part to communicate the message of the day, all while the inner workings of the West Wing shook. There is much talk about the push back from reporters (many of whom Huckabee Sanders felt were jaded against Trump), as well as the internal squabbles that saw key figures fall by the wayside during numerous moments of bloodletting. Interestingly enough, her support never erred for Trump, so anyone who spoke out was vilified early and often in the book’s narrative. Through a whirlwind of events and the eventual elevation of Huckabee Sanders to Press Secretary, the book does turn even more sycophantic, while also becoming highly detailed. The reader receives a great deal of behind the scenes sentiments, which can be refreshing once the political spin is parsed from the narrative. Throughout, it becomes clear that Huckabee Sanders was dedicated to family, be it her own or the one forged by supporting President Trump through it all.

There came a time when the work/home balance was completely out of whack. As Huckabee Sanders makes clear, while she was the first mother to serve as Press Secretary, she always valued her children above communicating the Administration’s message to the world. She had missed countless events and family moments, all in the name of work, and it was time to claim it back before her children began to resent her. As the narrative explains, it was a smooth and easy transition, one POTUS encouraged without issue, though I am a tad shocked that he would not have pushed back, as this was not a choice that benefitted him. Still, with her head held high and tears in her eyes, Sarah Huckabee Sanders led her family out of Washington and back to Arkansas for a quieter life more focussed on family. While she may still be a strong and vocal advocate of the Administration, she’s able to spend more time with her family, something that she cherishes more than all other gifts.

As I sit here, contemplating what I’ve just read, I cannot be sure it was entirely expected or whether I am surprised by the end result. Certainly, when before the press on a regular basis, one would expect a ‘party line’ approach to things, but I would hoped for some leeway and raw honesty in this book to offer insights that might supersede the need to be so sycophantic. I will be the first to admit, Huckabee Sanders had quite the life and has been able to balance her work and personal lives effectively. I actually had no idea she had a family during the time I watched her bat questions around from the podium, but can see just how important they are to her by the kind works and numerous stories that find their way into the narrative. While I admire people with a strong connection to their beliefs, be they religious or political, something just does not sit right when each chapter seeks to offer up another jug of the proverbial Kool-Aid and having it guzzled down. I loved the personal stories that came up throughout, both from Huckabee Sanders’ early years and even in her time within the White House, as it personalises the entire story, but it would seem that, like her daily briefings, everything is so carefully scripted so as not to rock the boat. Insert smear of anything anti-Trump here, praise the man there, spin it out to make him look positive when it is needed. I did find that the book leapt around quite a bit, focussing on some of the larger events, but also dodging ones that would not shine a great light on the Administration. I had hoped to get some insights into her take on things in Charlottesville, but she was silent. I wondered about talk about the public stances Trump took about building the Wall (ie having Mexico pay for it, the essential need for something immediately), but those discussions were replaced with tossing stones at the Democrats regarding the shut-down. True, this was not a tell-all book, nor was it meant to offer up all the dirty laundry, but each time things seemed to be getting on a roll, what was an important media event got sidelined to talk about kids or how lovely President Trump was with his praise for X or Y. Still, one must applaud her for gritting her teeth and keeping a smile on her face throughout. Those who are staunch Trumpers will love it, as their fearless leader comes out unscathed. Still, I cannot help but remember the closing lines of the book. ““we take a stand against evil. Now is our chance to choose the right side. Let us be the somebodies who do something.” Americans are trying to do that, but the ostrich mentality that the most sycophantic portray proves only to make things even more dangerous for America as a whole!

Kudos, Madam Huckabee Sanders, for an insightful piece. I do admire your courage to share those feelings and was quite enthralled with how you kept the story moving. Let’s see if it helps the cause come November.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons