OPINION

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: The Sarah Sanders style


It was a fair question, neither tough nor unfair in the least. It was challenging only to the extent that it asked Gov. Sarah Sanders to explain herself.

She doesn't like or want to do that, least of all to the prying establishment media.

The question was posed in the most polite way. The tone was subservient to the governor's natural aura of superiority.

It all merely went to the essence of what she seems to be about, which is eschewing conflict resolution and instead contriving and fueling conflict for an eventual political victory.

Who wants conflict resolution when conflict can produce political victory?

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Roby Brock, the versatile veteran journalist who has covered Arkansas politics and business for decades on multiple platforms, welcomed Sanders as the guest on his half-hour Sunday morning program on KARK-TV in Little Rock called "Capitol View."

The purpose was to review Sanders' first year in office, which she said went well, serving her aim to be one of the nation's boldest governors on reforming education.

Before we get to that--meaning her saying that her problem with the Board of Corrections is all the board's fault--she answered another query by saying that her office had "followed all the protocols" on that lectern somehow still under audit.

She pooh-poohed that whole thing and said most of the people of Arkansas pooh-poohed it, too. She has a dismissive air conducive to pooh-poohing.

Presumably, those supposed protocols specify that, when buying an obscenely expensive lectern for no pressing reason, a governor must avoid seeking competitive bids and must buy only at top dollar from persons not in the lectern business but who are political pals of the governor.

Then those protocols apparently stipulate that, if the governor is found out--by a blogger, let's say--the governor's office should make a notation saying "to be reimbursed" on the already-state-paid invoice, then get the governor's political party to reimburse the state on the theory that all state constitutional officers of that party need the lectern, though they don't.

So, now let's move back to Sanders' political/legal melee with the state prison board. Let's quote the "Capitol View" exchange.

The question to her was, "In totality, you could have met with the Board of Corrections ... ahead of time and hammered out some sort of deal. I sense that did not happen. Tell me why it got to the point of confrontation that it did, versus hammering out some sort of agreement on the front end."

Sanders answered, "This is a group that's frankly fought us kind of every step of the way. They were against us on the [bill to change sentencing and build a large new prison]. We requested an expansion for beds. Every single thing we're doing, we're looking for how do we do a better job protecting the people of Arkansas. And they fought us every step of the way and kind of kicked off a little bit of an adversarial relationship."

She did not deny that she failed to seek board input before her prison director moved to add prison beds in existing facilities. And she did not mention the state Constitution's Amendment 33, which, like it or not, vests certain oversight in prison matters to the Board of Corrections. This board independence of the governor was intentional on the part of the people in 1942, just as for the boards of the state institutions of higher learning.

All Sanders says is that the prison board started it by not yielding without a whimper.

She doesn't mention that some Corrections Board members twice sought a meeting with her about the staffing issues and didn't get a call back. It's an old-fashioned notion--sitting down to talk with those you seem to be bugging and who seem to be bugging you. She could have granted an audience, as the royals say.

She talks of her responsibility to "protect the people," as if her politically asserted responsibility exceeds a state constitutional amendment.

She knows her position is a political winner. And she suspects, as I do, that the Republicanized state Supreme Court will give her a prevailing four votes when the time comes. It will rule that a state constitutional amendment is unconstitutional, or maybe something the people in 1942 just shouldn't have done.

If prisoners get piled atop each other in an unsafe way without enough guards for what a constitutionally authorized oversight group thinks, then ... that, too, will probably be the board's fault, by Sarah's rules.

She learned this style from Donald Trump. She probably adapted it from her trained insight into contemporary conservative politics.

And she might come by it a little bit naturally, if you know any of her kinfolk.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.


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