Five months after starting her campaign for Governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders preached American exceptionalism, condemned the “radical left” and regaled the crowd of hundreds with sentimental anecdotes from her time as a press secretary for former President Donald Trump in the White House during her opening address at this Republican Indiana Spring Dinner of the Year.
As she took to the stage at the JW Marriot in downtown Indianapolis on Friday night, she didn’t miss the opportunity to deliver a media relations shot in her capacity as press secretary for the President Trump.
“Normally, when I step on the podium, no one ever applauds,” she said, to the resounding applause of the hundreds of Hoosier Republicans in the audience. Sanders had a combative relationship with reporters during his time in the White House. Notably, after President Trump called the press “an enemy of the people,” Sanders refused to dismiss this characterization, saying the president had “made his comments clear.”
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Sanders noted that she was the first working mother to serve as the White House press secretary.
“I was really amazed that there weren’t more moms to play this role,” she said, “because for me there can be no better preparation in the world to come into this briefing room than being a mother in kindergarten age children.
Sanders also used her position as a mother of three preschoolers to make a bigger political point.
“One of the reasons I am running for governor of my state: she said,” and one of the reasons we need to get Republicans to step up and engage in the process as never before is because children growing up in this country should be able to speed up to exactly what they want.
She added: “Unfortunately, there is one group in the country that does not believe this: the radical left coming from Washington. They are not just trying to put obstacles in front of our children and the path they take. They want to rip it out from under them and take it out completely and we can’t just sit and do nothing and allow that to happen.
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Echoing a personal line from President Trump, Sanders spoke of the danger of the “radical left” and said she was not afraid to fight them because she had been fighting them for several years. Trump had used the phrase throughout his presidency to condemn a wide range of individuals and groups, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Clinton to officials at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.
In his campaign for Governor of Arkansas, Sanders backed and doubled down on rhetoric about the “radical left,” tweeting on January 28, three days after announcing that she was running, that “radical left socialism and the cancellation of culture will not unify or cure America, it will only divide and destroy us.
Sanders rallied around individual freedom from government intervention, defense of gun rights, American exceptionalism, and a pro-military stance in his speech.
When she shared her travel experience in other countries with then President Trump, she said it was “the best reminder of the blessing of being American.” Because even at its best, no country compares to America at its worst.
She also recounted her secret visit to US troops in Iraq with President Trump on Christmas night 2018. The then president took a secret night flight to visit Al Asad Air Base, west of Baghdad, after being criticized by the media for being the first president since 2002 for not visiting the troops at Christmas or before.
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Repeating the same story she used in the opening seconds of her Arkansas gubernatorial campaign announcement video, Sanders spoke of an American soldier she met during the Christmas visit to Iraq. who she said told her she had a “tough job” as a press secretary. . She said she replied, “I’m answering questions, you take bombs and bullets.”
Sanders praised the American soldiers stationed in Iraq for being “willing to put it all on the line, in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live free in America, so that we can call ourselves Americans.”
The United States has no immediate plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq, where there has been a US military presence for 18 years since President George W. Bush’s invasion in 2003. When asked a timetable for leaving the country during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in August 2020, Trump declined to give a specific answer.
As a White House press secretary, Sanders had previously argued for giving the then president exclusive power to direct military policy and said she “couldn’t think of anything more stupid” than to allow Congress to vote on foreign policy. The US Constitution gives Congress such powers.
On Friday night, Sanders called on Republicans in Indiana to play a role in preserving “the greatness of this country.”
“We are not all called to be on the real battlefields of Iraq,” she said. “We are all called to play and to fight for freedom.”
Contact IndyStar reporter Ko Lyn Cheang at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @kolyn_cheang.