Some day, when all this lunacy is over, Sarah Huckabee Sanders will sit across the desk from Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert and tell America what it was like to be the White House press secretary during Donald Trump administration.
She'll be promoting a book, of course, and will appear charming, witty, and profoundly relieved not to be speaking on behalf of a president who can’t stop lying.
Sanders’ book will be filled with so many wacky anecdotes that talk-show hosts won’t know where to begin the interview. They might start by asking her about Trump’s phantom phone conversations.
Last week, for instance, the president bragged that he’d received two glowing, congratulatory calls.
One supposedly came from the head of the Boy Scouts of America, praising Trump for the speech he delivered to kids at the Boy Scout Jamboree.
Trump had been criticized for his coarse partisan tone, prompting the Boy Scouts leadership to issue a statement apologizing to those who were “offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree.”
But a transcript from a Wall Street Journal interview reveals the president proclaiming, “I got a call from the head of the Boys Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them …”
Only problem: There was no such phone call. The Boy Scouts of America said it never happened.
This embarrassing revelation came only a day after Trump invented another phantom chat conceived to highlight his fabulous greatness.
“Even the president of Mexico called me,” he boasted at a Cabinet meeting during a discussion of illegal immigration. “They said their southern border – very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”
There was, of course, no phone call from President Enrique Peña Nieto.
With Sean Spicer gone, the unpleasant chore of explaining Trump’s self-aggrandizing lies fell to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
No, she admitted, the head of the Boy Scouts never phoned to praise the president’s speech. However, she said, “multiple members” of the organization privately said nice things to Trump. A weak comeback but, in Sanders’ defense, she had basically no shred of truth to work with.
And that fawning phone call Trump said he got from Peña Nieto? It didn’t occur, Sanders said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a lie – that’s a bold accusation,” she bristled at the same media briefing.
And how is a made-up story not a lie?
“The conversations took place, they just simply didn’t take place over a phone call, they happened in person,” Sanders elaborated, when Trump and the Mexican president discussed immigration at the G-20 summit.
Mexican officials say that, during the G-20, Peña Nieto informed Trump that border crossings from Guatemala into Mexico had dropped 47 percent. They describe the conversation as strictly informational, not as a compliment – “ultimate” or otherwise – of Trump’s policies.
Yet give Sanders credit for a game uphill effort.
Unfortunately, she’s now got another Mexico problem – leaked transcripts of a real phone call between her boss and Peña Nieto. In their conversation, Trump said the border wall debate had both of them in “a political bind,” and repeatedly warned Peña Nieto to stop saying his country wouldn’t pay for the project – thus sinking a key Trump campaign pledge.
He told the Mexican leader that the wall was financially “the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important.”
Peña Nieto reiterated his position that Mexico wouldn’t pay for the wall.
“But you cannot say that to the press … I cannot live with that,” Trump complained. He also said other funding could be found for the wall.
Peña Nieto said the issue “related to the national pride of my country,” but agreed to stop talking about it publicly. Since then, Trump has asked Congress to budget money for the wall.
Voters who believed he’d get Mexico to pay might be surprised to hear it’s the “least important” issue between the two countries. The president’s real phone calls are more politically problematic than his imaginary ones.
While he enjoys a 17-day vacation, there will be no rest for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Every day the challenge is to devise creative explanations for Trump’s words. And every night you go home, and work on your book.
Carl Hiaasen is Miami Herald columnist, firstname.lastname@example.org.