Yes, Sarah Sanders has a book, and if you believe in common decency you won't read it

The same goes for John Bolton's faux-courageous stream of consciousness

Hannah Selinger
New York
Monday 22 June 2020 19:37 BST
Sanders, like Bolton, followed the money
Sanders, like Bolton, followed the money (Getty ImagesJoe Raedle)

Regrettably, Sarah Sanders is currently trending on Twitter. Yes, that Sarah Sanders. Just when I thought I would never have to see or hear from the former American press secretary ever again, she reemerges, with the worst news to date: her soon-to-be-released book, Speaking for Myself, will be on shelves before we know it.

Last week, many made John Bolton out to be a hero, when he released a book pillorying President Donald Trump for his endlessly unethical behavior. But I want to make one thing tirelessly clear here: John Bolton was never a hero. Bolton was in it for the cold, hard cash, just like Sanders is. There were numerous opportunities for both actors to come forward (not that Sanders, ever the sycophant, ever had any interest in the triumph of decency).

There was, after all, an entire impeachment trial, in which Congress solicited witnesses. Bolton’s presence was requested, it must be said, at more than one hearing, and he refused to show up without a subpoena. Any real interest in the principles of democracy died the day he placed a premium on the number of zeroes on a paycheck, rather on the basic function and transparency of the executive branch.

In a sense, I don’t blame Bolton for falling prey to greed. I don’t even blame Sanders, because she was always an unreliable narrator, made more unreliable by the truest expression of humanity. Of course they’re in it for the money. Why else toss your reputation out the window and make yourself the sacrificial lamb for a president who has a hole where ethics are supposed to go? Ultimately, it’s impossible to expect much from former cabinet members, when large sums of money are waved about like roadside flares.

But rewarding public servants with giant book contracts has one function and one function only: It prevents them from doing the right thing in office, because the payoff is always in revealing the sordid details after the fact. There is no compelling reason, after all, to tell the authorities, or the ethics committee, or Congress that you know about the interior machinations of the political scene if the true benefit is reaped by doing it on paper, for all the world to see. Why trade a million dollars for mere decency? Expecting public servants to turn down fat checks by doing the so-called right thing is expecting people to stop being human. It simply isn’t going to happen.

Accountability, then, starts in the private sector. Stop the cash flow, start the transparency. Why are we continuing to offer monumental book deals to people who, among other things, can barely construct a coherent sentence? I don’t need to know John Bolton’s interior monologue. I definitely don’t want to pay to find out what’s going on inside of Sarah Sanders’ brain. And there should absolutely be no entry fee for any of this information, if it comes at the cost of keeping the soap opera alive but holding no one accountable for their actions in any real or actionable way.

The truth is, I would have found the details of these books far more interesting in the context of a Congressional hearing, where members of both parties could have participated in a question-and-answer format. I would have wanted witnesses, and transparency. I would have wanted to know the answers to a million other questions, and not just a faux-courageous soapbox oratory. In books, writers make themselves the heroes of their narratives. But that’s not a truthful unraveling. In truth, John Bolton was complicit in Trump’s madness. He allowed it to go on for long enough to be dangerous and, when there was an opportunity to stop it, he didn’t. The same can be said for Sarah Sanders who was, by all accounts, a willing participant in the Trump circus.

The best way to ensure that public servants are doing their true jobs as servants to us, their true bosses — the taxpayers who pay their salaries — is to stop allowing public servants to accept book contracts. Keep them honest, keep them accountable, and force them to air their dirty laundry in the halls of Congress, where the people committing the ethical blunders will be held accountable, and where money and greed will not be the sole motivators for acting like a decent American.

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