White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders joined me this morning from the OEOB:
HH: Welcome back, and sitting in front of me, you see her every day that they have a briefing on television, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, of course, the press secretary in the White House. Sarah, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. It’s great to have you back on.
SHS: Good morning, thanks so much for having us, and thanks for being at the White House today.
HH: I’m glad to help move tax reform along. We going to win this? Is this going to happen?
SHS: I think so. I mean, I think look, the Senate and the House are desperate for a win, and frankly, America is desperate for them to do something. I think this is a great opportunity for them to step up and show that they’re willing to do the hard work they were elected to do. You’ve got Leader McConnell that was here yesterday. He is very committed to making sure this gets through the Senate, and I think we’re going to get there.
HH: All right, we’ll come back to that in a second. I’ve got to ask you, last time I saw you was in Cleveland. Now I believe that as a matter of good luck, President Trump needs to return to Cleveland for his re-nomination. Is there any conversation, yet, about going back to Cleveland for a convention? That’s what Nixon did in Miami. That’s what happened before when you want to win two times in a row.
SHS: You know, I don’t know if that’s even being talked about, yet, but I have a lot of confidence that that shouldn’t be an issue for the President to be re-nominated. He’s had an incredibly successful first nine months in office, and I think the next three and a half, or two and a half, three years are going to be equally as successful, including getting tax reform done, which is going to be a big deal, and make a really big impact on most Americans, and they’re going to be begging for four more years of President Trump.
HH: Yeah, the second term nominations are easy, but you’ve just got to have a great party.
HH: So I think Cleveland is where you want to go back. It’s just a matter of good luck.
SHS: You know, I’m all for a return to Cleveland. I thought it was a great convention. But you know, I also wouldn’t be upset if we explored someplace different and new. But I’ll leave that up to the RNC and their team to determine the best party city for us to do a victory lap.
HH: When you see the President, just tell him good luck is good luck. Now I want to ask you the great novelist Alex Haley, Lamar Alexander likes to quote him, find the good and praise it. Rather than ask you who annoys you the most in the press briefing, let’s talk about…
SHS: (laughing) We don’t have that kind of time. We’re tight on time.
HH: Who do you like to go to? Who is prepared to ask you and you find to be usually a great Q & A as opposed to call and response antagonism?
SHS: Look, I think there are a lot of people that are there trying to get real information. There’s obviously always going to be a little bit of tension between the White House and the White House press corps. This one is a little bit more intense, I think, than we’ve seen in past administrations, but there are a lot of reporters out there that really come in, they want to do a good job, they want to get real information and report that back to people all across the country. I think you see that in some of the wire reporters, certainly a few of the Reuters folks, Bloomberg, you know, the radio guys are actually, I’m not sucking up because I’m on a radio show, but a lot of the radio guys, they’re spending a lot more time hearing and listening to Americans in the heartland versus those in the Beltway. And I think they have a lot better feel for what those people care about, and they’re really trying to put information out in front of those folks.
HH: You know, I see you go to John Gizzi. Not many people know he’s like a gem. He’s like a jewel that nobody knows about John Gizzi. Have you figured out that there are these specialists who know their business and have been doing it for 30 years and you go to them once in a while just to make sure that people realize who they are?
SHS: Absolutely. And I’ve known John Gizzi for over a decade. I met him out on the campaign trail forever ago working for my dad. One of the things that I love about John Gizzi, one, he always asks a substantive question.
HH: Yes, yes.
SHS: Two, he sits in the back of the room, and I’m, I have a hard time hearing. There’s a massive air conditioner that’s directly over the podium. And when it turns on, you can’t hear. So I can always hear John Gizzi, whether he’s even in the room or you know, no matter where he is, you can hear him. So I have no trouble hearing him from the back. And so I try to make my way on the sides, the front, the back of the room, and not get stuck into one area in calling on folks. And so he’s always a good go-to.
HH: Now Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you are the first young mom to be at that podium. And there are a lot of young moms in that front row, in that second row, in that third row. I wouldn’t blame you if you inclined towards them, but aren’t you amazed at how journalism has changed even from the time your dad ran for president and you ran that campaign, the number of young women who are in that room and in the front ranks of reporting is astonishing?
SHS: Absolutely. And I don’t think it’s just in the journalism side, but even in the White House. I think just the workforce in general, you have a lot more working moms that are taking on a very active role, and they’re not just doing part-time jobs, but they’re full-time income earners for their family. I think that’s a really big difference that has been factored into what President Trump’s been focused on in a lot of the workforce development initiatives that he’s done, and one of the big things that Ivanka Trump has taken on, and has a very good understanding of what that means, how it impacts different families, and I think that’s why he’s elevated her to such an important role, because you have seen so many more women come out as working moms and be part of the workforce. And it’s changed the entire dynamic of what our economic looks like, what a lot of the family structures look like. And so we have to be aware of how that impacts every family.
HH: Is the White House Press Corps taking Ivanka’s role seriously enough? I don’t believe they are. I think they are downplaying her substantive role. But what do you think, Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
SHS: I frankly, I think it’s shameful the way that she’s been treated. If she didn’t have the same last name, they would be celebrating her. They would be praising her. They would be thanking God that she is sitting in a position that she is to influence policy and help women across this country. And instead, they attack her, they shame her, and they belittle her. I think it’s very shameful, and I think it’s sad, because she’s such a good advocate for so many women. And for them to attack her, I think, is just really disheartening.
HH: How do you change that dynamic, because she is an asset. I’ve been writing about that for two years. Her father used to joke with me during the debates that she liked me a lot more than he did, and I said that’s pretty obvious, Mr. President. But I mean, how do you turn that dynamic around so that people take it seriously?
SHS: I mean, I think it’s through a lot of the things that she’s doing and highlighting the actual work instead of the person. She’s done a great job working with the World Bank, through helping female entrepreneurs across the globe. They announced that that initiative was fully operational as of this week. I think being able to talk about those things, being able to highlight actual policy successes, is the best way to help show what she’s doing and what a success story she has.
HH: All right, tax cuts, back to this, you’ve got some problems in the Senate. Senator Corker, by the way, do you talk to Senator Corker’s press secretary and say what is going on here? If World War III looms, why aren’t we moving Richard Grenell through the Senate?
SHS: Exactly. You know, sadly, Senator Corker hasn’t called me, but if he’d like to visit, I’d be happy to talk to him and certainly see if we could get him back on board and do, frankly, what the people of Tennessee elected him to do. That’s come here, help do things that protect our country, protect our citizens, and do a lot of the things that they campaigned on, whether it’s repeal and replace, tax reform. Hopefully, he’ll get out of the name calling and get back to work here pretty soon.
HH: A couple of weeks ago, I was on Meet the Press. Mick Mulvaney was there, director of OMB, told Chuck Todd on and off air the drama we see reported in the press has got nothing to do with what’s going on in the White House. Do you agree with Mick Mulvaney as to the bizarre nature of the representation of the atmosphere in the White House?
SHS: Look, I certainly agree with Director Mulvaney in the sense that regardless of whether or not the press is just enamored with who’s up, who’s down, who likes who this week. We’re still really focused on actually getting things accomplished. As you know, this is a president who likes to see results. He hates to see things get lost in process. Things get lost in conversation. He wants to lay out a framework, lay out a plan, and get to where those things are enacted. You see that constantly through the activity out of this White House. We’re doing a number of things every single day. You know, I have reporters come up to me all the time. When are you guys going to slow down for the sake of all of us? Can you slow down? But this is a president who I don’t think will ever slow down. He’s going to keep pushing and working hard, and he’s very results-oriented, and he’s going to push until he gets them.
HH: Now I am not a fan of televised briefings for the same reason I don’t want the Supreme Court ever to televise their proceedings. It turns reporters into performers. What is the policy going forward? How often are you going to televise the briefing? How often not?
SHS: You know, as of right now, we’re televising all of the briefings. But we do those on days when the President doesn’t have a major speech, or he isn’t himself taking questions. So you don’t have one every single day, because again, he’s very active and does a lot of public-facing events. And so it varies from week to week. But for now, we’re going to keep them on air. But I agree with you. A lot of times, you have, I saw after doing quite a few of the briefings off camera, the substantial difference that you have when they’re on camera versus off camera. It’s night and day. It’s a lot calmer, a lot more subdued. And certainly, you don’t have people that are performing before the cameras. And I think that’s an unfortunate thing, but I think the American people have caught onto that, too.
HH: And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, last question, I followed eight years of President Obama, eight years of President Bush. I’ve been doing this since 1989. I believe President Trump answers more questions per minute than any president before him, and probably ten times as many questions per minute that President Obama did. Have you done any studies, yet, on how rapid he is in his response?
SHS: I haven’t done any in-depth dive, but I know that there are some people out there, some of the historians that do that pretty regularly, and that’s actually something interesting I’ll have to take a look at.
HH: Do you agree with me intuitively? He just answers questions.
SHS: Absolutely, and he moves through very quickly. And his answers aren’t, you know, I remember President Obama, and I don’t mean this to be a negative or one way or the other, but some of his answers would be ten, twelve minutes long, and in that time, President Trump probably answers two or three questions. It’s just a difference of style.
HH: Two or three? It’s like six.
HH: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, thanks for stopping by. Good luck on tax reform. It’s great to see you in person. Remember, Cleveland…
SHS: Yes, sir. I’ll put in a good word.
HH: Third time’s the charm.
SHS: Good to see you.
HH: Good to see you.
End of interview.