On how many levels is it possible to find a person unattractive?
I have no idea, but just for the hell of it I’ve been applying the test to Sarah Sanders, once known as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
Let us first eliminate the notion of attractiveness in the physical sense, for fear of being accused of misogynistic tendencies. On that aspect I will say only this, and without undue emphasis: Ms. Sanders’ appearance is not the kind to which I am naturally drawn.
No, by attractiveness I mean in every other sense, starting with Ms. Sanders’ bearing, her charm, her manner, her erudition, her wit, her sense of humour, her sense of joie de vivre. Thirty seconds into the exercise and I must admit to having a very long list of levels, including the aforementioned, on which I find Ms. Sanders, or whatever she calls herself this week, considerably in deficit.
She is inelegant. She is haughty. She is often downright rude. She appears to have no sense of humour, although I could see her laughing if a prominent liberal Democrat opponent fell down the steps of Capitol Hill and broke his ankle, preferably live on television. As for joie de vivre, she must be hiding that particular light under the proverbial bushel. All I see, watching her on television is joie de mort.
I was watching her last night, and for longer than I intended or that the importance of the subjects being discussed warranted (mainly whether her boss would or would not be meeting with Kim Jong-un) because I find her compelling to watch. Compelling in a lip-curling, eye-rolling, muttering expletives under-the-breath sort of way; compelling as in watching, while in a state of extreme late-evening lassitude, entire episodes of Air Crash Investigation or Snakes in the City; compelling because of the bare-faced, ignorance-borne effrontery of the woman as she talks down to those members of the press corps, most of them intellectually superior to her by a country mile, but who by the nature of their employment are obliged to attend her press briefings to be humiliated. They are not the ones humiliated; Ms. Sanders is.
The word briefings demands quotation marks because Sanders uses them not to convey information but to score points. Clearly she dislikes reporters as one of the lesser breeds of the human species. In responding to a question she often dismisses the questioner in peremptory language that suggests she has no time for such ill-informed nonsense, that the questioner is either at best a complete twerp or at worst a traitor to the cause of Trumpism, part of the vast media conspiracy to bring him down. Her manner is that of a grumpy menopausal schoolmistress putting down the most stupid child in class. She can’t wait to get out of the classroom. I often get the impression she is trying to avoid the temptation of looking at her watch. “Let’s just get this over and done with,” is what she conveys even if she doesn’t say it. “I’ve got better things to do, even if you haven’t.”
I have read somewhere that she is an entirely different person in a one-on-one situation; that she can be pleasant and helpful and has been known to bake pecan pies for reporters on their birthdays. I would believe it – the ‘pleasant’ bit – only after seeing it, and since almost certainly I won’t get a chance to see it I shall go on disbelieving. And anyway who likes pecan pie?
Even her father Mike Huckabee, a senator from Arkansas who ran for president in 2016, one of the fifteen, or was it sixteen, Republican candidates who were left flattened in the road by the Trump steamroller, called his daughter ‘doggoned tough’, fearless as a result, he thought, of having grown up with two brothers.
Well, ‘doggoned tough’ is one thing, rude and arrogant something else.
From the list of levels of dislike I’ve been working on I’ll pick just one. She is the most utterly charmless person currently to be seen on our television screens.
That, of course, is to exclude the man who employs her.