OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: A surprise from Sarah

Some wiseacre posted on social media that Gov. Sarah Sanders would be doing a tryout for Donald Trump's running mate on "Face the Nation" on Sunday morning, and, in that context, needed to "be at her worst."

Actually, I'm the one who posted that. But that's not the point. The point is that she was not her worst. She was her least bad.

In fact, she said when asked about her vice-presidential interest that she loved being governor and hoped to be that for seven more years. That, other than being a nightmare scenario for the better angels of Arkansas, was less than the clearest way to express having no interest.

You could always say you don't wish to be on the ticket and that, while you have no reason to think the running mate's slot would be offered, you would turn it down if offered.

But there's no need to offend Trump that way, just as there's no need to tell Arkansas voters that you're more interested in national politics than in them. So, you use a clever wiggle phrase.

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What I meant by "least bad" was the rare example in the "Face the Nation" segment when Sarah, given an opportunity to spout the strongest talking point for national hard-right messaging, declined and chose instead to answer in terms of the best thing for Arkansas.

It was cause for rejoicing. For one paragraph, at long last, she seemed to think of what was best for the state without regard for how it might play in the national conservative echo chamber.

The question was about Sanders' decision for Arkansas to opt into the new federal program beginning in summer to issue pre-loaded food-purchasing cards for $40 per month for three months for children eligible for the free-lunch program when school is in session. The idea is to help those kids stay nourished on summer vacation for their physical well-being and brain-feeding.

Participating states pay half the administrative costs. Sarah had Arkansas agree to ante up.

Fifteen conservative Republican governors opted out, saying the program was too expensive or a liberal concept.

Here was Sanders' answer to why she was out of step with 15 other conservative Republican governors: "Well, I want to focus on why I think it helps our state. Arkansas in the past has ranked at the bottom when it comes to food insecurity for children. I don't think any child should ever go hungry if we have options available to us to help improve that. That's exactly what we're going to do. That's why we've opted into this program. We're going to continue to look for ways to help and protect kids in our state. And I was proud to be part of that program. And we'll continue to look for options to help move Arkansas out of the bottom when it comes to food insecurity and into the top."

It was such a fine response that I wish to apologize to her for any damage resulting from the fact that I like it.

It may be that U.S. Sen. John Boozman, her good friend for whom she's run campaigns, helped design the program from his seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. It could be that Sanders' dad, who learned the value of child-championing politics with the ARKids First program, had a moment of influence.

Either way, or neither, her decision was right and her explanation solid.

Meantime, you have the Republican governor of Nebraska saying we can't afford the program and the Republican governor of Iowa saying there's no nutrition guarantee, although the law calls for application to eligible food items and gives states roles in what those will be.

Sarah's base perhaps was comforted when she returned to form when the issue was abortion, which is different--more polarizing than hungry children.

Asked why Arkansas is among only nine states currently not expanding postpartum coverage under Medicaid to a year, she talked about adoption, foster care and pregnancy counseling centers, none having directly to do with mothers' or infants' health-care services.

Sanders talked around whether there might be any change in the state's near-total ban on abortion that she could accept.

She didn't want to say she might accept exceptions if the people got them proposed in a constitutional amendment. But she didn't seem to want to say she wouldn't either.

So, she said she'd seen nothing yet that she could support, which meant she opposed--to no one's surprise--the proposal currently enduring Attorney General Tim Griffin's editing obsession.

Sanders was true to adoring form when talking about Trump, saying among other affronts that Trump was respected for his strength by world leaders while Joe Biden is laughed at by world leaders.

It's been quite the other way around in NATO, our most important allies, if maybe not in the case of Vladimir Putin.

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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