Sanders didn’t just defend the president from the effects of his own statements; she offered herself as a kind of prosaic presence whose function it was to act like anything Trump did, no matter how shocking, was no big deal. She exemplified the stolid approval Trump wanted for everything from family separations to tax cuts for the rich. As her tenure ends, we can now see how much her reliance on reassuring phrases like “make a determination”—and unblinkingly calling lies differences of opinion and hush payments not worth discussing—provided a kind of muted laugh track to the terrible show being forced upon America. Rather than laugh at unfunny jokes, she loyally normalized despicable conduct.
Her value—and Scaramucci never understood this—was her ability to do this in a distinctly un-Trumpish way. Rather than be sensational or offensive or inflammatory, Sanders was staid and dull. In an era characterized by “White House in chaos” headlines, her repressive calm served an essential function. “Sanders possesses a unique talent that, heretofore, has not quite been considered a talent: She can deaden a room,” Jason Schwartz wrote at Politico. As a public servant, Sanders was abysmal. As a public speaker, she was subpar. But as the first line of Trump’s defense, she was absolutely indispensable. [Continue reading…]