Trump to Press Secretary Sanders: "You're fired!"

He was joking, of course, but the crowd at President Trump’s Green Bay rally Saturday night enjoyed the reference to Trump’s television career. No doubt the scolds in the White House Press Corps want those words to be true about the press secretary but there is no evidence that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going anywhere. At least not right now.

Saturday night, instead of accepting a dinner invitation from the White House Correspondents Association and subjecting himself to the slings and arrows of the press corps and other Democrats, including the after-dinner speaker, historian, and author Ron Chernow, President Trump chose to hold a re-election campaign rally. It was timed so that it took place before the WHCA dinner’s live coverage on CNN. C-SPAN offered more extensive coverage. Sanders accompanied him on the trip. Who would blame either for their choice of audience, other than Democrats?

Trump asked Sarah Sanders to join him on stage and she was given the microphone. She mentioned that she was at a different kind of event at this time last year and then launched into the same enthusiastic, positive critique of President Trump as she did on Twitter earlier in the day.

Naturally, she was loudly applauded. Trump followed her cameo appearance by jokingly saying she’s too popular. “You’re fired!”. I didn’t watch very much of the rally because I was too being keeping my head from exploding as I watched CNN’s pre-WHCA dinner coverage. Anchors Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota used a seven-person guest panel to slam President Trump with everything under the sun. (It was a nine-person panel including the anchors.) As the rally began and President Trump opened with remarks about the horrific shooting at the California synagogue on the last day of Passover, his expressions of sympathy and grief were not enough for the two hosts. It was particularly infuriating to watch as Don Lemon interviewed former Director of White House Messaging Strategy Cliff Sims.

Lemon asked Sims about the president’s remarks after the Charlottesville march that ended with the death of a protester. Ever since that march, conducted by white supremacists, Trump has been blamed for contributing to racial divisions over his remarks. As Sims said that the president he worked for isn’t a racist or white supremacist, Lemon pounced. Every time Sims tried to utter a complete sentence, Lemon interrupted. It was ridiculous. Sims, to his credit, pushed back and remained much more civil that I may have been able to do. Lemon was too busy calling Trump a racist to listen to anything else. You can find my reactions on Twitter (@penguinponders). I did a little bit of live-tweeting. I’d be happy to receive your follow.

Meanwhile, at the WHCA dinner, Ron Chernow wasn’t exactly the after-dinner speaker the attendees were anticipating. The most exuberant applause he received was when the audience thought he was finished with his speech. They rose and applauded. Then Chernow had to say, wait a minute, I have more. Awkward. He continued droning on with what he thought were brilliant observations of American history and presidents. Finally, he finished and the visibly bored audience was appreciative, as was I. My goodness. I noticed that even his effort to bring some laughter to the evening with some Mark Twain quotes did not go over particularly well either. Chernow, in his own stuffy, serious way was trying his best to stick it to Trump. He did that, to be sure, but he just wasn’t entertaining about it.

The dinner was as it always is. It’s an evening for the press to celebrate itself. Since the Orange Man is in the White House and pushing back on coverage that is 90% negative, a call for celebrating the First Amendment was the theme. Funny, I don’t remember the wounded feelings and concern about freedom of speech and holding a presidential administration accountable during the eight years of Obama. I haven’t forgotten that Obama called for a boycott of Fox News by Democrats, put reporter James Rosen and his parents under surveillance, and seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. It’s no mystery why President Trump has decided to take a pass on this annual event.