I’m shocked — that it wasn’t Jim Acosta who shouted this jerky question as Sarah Huckabee Sanders was leaving the podium. It was April Ryan. Gotta be quicker on the draw if you want to pad that CNN highlight reel, Jimbo.
File this as Exhibit 2,309 in the case for why the White House press briefing is garbage whose chief purpose is to let reporters grandstand on live TV.
God only knows what prompted Ryan to ask but I assume it was John Kelly’s answer to Laura Ingraham last night about Confederate memorials and the causes of the Civil War, a subject on which no American can discourse publicly without pissing off a chunk of the country:
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”…
“It was not about slavery, it was about honorable men fighting for honorable causes?” [historian Stephanie] McCurry said [in response to Kelly’s remarks]. “Well, what was the cause? . . . In 1861, they were very clear on what the causes of the war were. The reason there was no compromise possible was that people in the country could not agree over the wisdom of the continued and expanding enslavement of millions of African Americans.”…
“Any serious person who knows anything about this,” [historian David] Blight said, “can look at the late 1850s and then the secession crisis and know that they tried all kinds of compromise measures during the secession winter, and nothing worked. Nothing was viable.”
Blaming a war on “the lack of an ability to compromise” is a truism. It’s accurate as applied to every war that’s ever been fought. And the two sides did, as noted in the excerpt, try repeatedly for decades to compromise. An answer like Kelly’s leads you to the question of what further compromises on slavery could have and should have been struck to avert war. It’s interesting academically but any answer you give means years, probably decades, more bondage for black Americans. And of course Kelly didn’t answer in a vacuum: This came in the context of a defense of memorials to Robert E. Lee, which gives the bit about both sides operating in good faith and failing to compromise a political slant. One side of the war was morally right, the other emphatically wasn’t. Lee was on the side that wasn’t. That’s the beginning of any consideration about memorials to him and his honor.
But, uh, yeah, I’m pretty sure Kelly and Sanders believe slavery was wrong. And I’m pretty sure Ryan knew that when she shouted her “question.” Gotta give the viewers at home a show, though.