Sarah Huckabee Sanders, From Trump’s Mouthpiece to G.O.P. Mascot

She understands her currency in a party that would like to be able to claim more diversity than it has and to seem a bit more modern than it does. “I happen to be the youngest governor currently serving anywhere in the country,” she said during those inauguration remarks, just happening to mention that.

She went for relatability: “As a mom, I’m reminded of what is at stake every time I tuck my three kids into bed each night.”

She’s asserting a political identity distinct from Trump’s. But his imprint on her is indelible — and she hasn’t made much of an effort, not that I can tell, to erase it. Maybe she’s unwilling to sacrifice what benefit it still brings.

Or maybe she appreciates the futility of trying to make such a break. She wasn’t just one of the many Trump administration officials who shrugged off his laudatory comments about the white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., his praise of autocrats, his flirtations with autocracy, his cruelty to migrant children, his bigoted tirades, his hush money for a porn star, his phantasmagorical dishonesty. She spun them into a fantasy of strong and inspiring leadership.

“Her briefings are breathtaking,” I wrote in a column in 2017. “For some 20 minutes every afternoon, down is up, paralysis is progress, enmity is harmony, stupid is smart, villain is victim, disgrace is honor, plutocracy is populism and Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia if anyone would summon the nerve to investigate her (because, you know, that never, ever happens).”

Her motivation? She made clear that she cherished Trump’s stated opposition to abortion and the promises he made — and kept — in that regard. And so she minimized and rationalized all the ways in which he flagrantly offended Christian principles.

But then she’s the queen of having it both ways. She has bashed journalists in public — the base eats that up — and then made nice with them in private. She’ll emphasize bread-and-butter issues one minute and, the next, push an Arkansas bill that would ban drag performances outside of strip clubs and similar environments (as if, Miller said, “she’s never enjoyed some bottomless mimosas and lip-syncing with the gals”).