The competent question not asked: On Monday and Tuesday of this week, members of the mainstream press corps tried to question Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
They tried to question her about something she said last August. This was the exchange in which her statement was made:
QUESTION (8/1/17): Sarah, according to the Washington Post, the president tried to change the narrative of what went down in [Donald Trump Jr.'s] meeting with the Russian lawyer. Can you address that story and tell us did the president really try to do that?That morning, the Washington Post had reported that the president "personally dictated" the public statement his son had released about the now-famous meeting with the Russkie lawyer. Sanders said the president "certainly didn't dictate" the statement, but that he had played a part in its creation.
SANDERS: Look, the statement that Don Jr. issued is true. There's no inaccuracy in the statement. The president weighed in as any father would, based on the limited information that he had.
QUESTION: Can you clarify the degree to which the president weighed in?
SANDERS: He didn't—he certainly didn't dictate. But, you know, he—like I said, he weighed in, offered a suggestion like any father would do.
For the record, that represented a change in the story, and it was reported as such. Earlier, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had repeatedly said that the president had played no role in creating his son's public statement.
Sanders now said that the president actually had played a role. But she denied the Post's report that he "personally dictated" the statement.
Uh-oh! Over this past weekend, the world learned that the president's lawyers told Robert Mueller, in January, that the president did, in fact, "dictate" his son's statement.
In their letter to Mueller, they used that very term. If the lawyers' statement to Mueller was true, that meant that Sanders' statement last August was false.
Sure enough! In White House press briefings on Monday and Tuesday, reporters tried to question Sanders about this state of affairs. We say they tried to question Sanders because they thoroughly failed.
On Monday, three reporters tried to question Sanders about her statement last August. Yesterday, two more scribes tried to question her about what she had said.
You'd think that, by the second day, the nation's reporters would have been able to frame the question in such a way as to deny Sanders an easy escape. But if you thought that, you've never seen our upper-end press corps at work.
On each of these two days, Sanders kept slithering off the hook about her statement from last year. In part, she was able to do so because the press corps' questions were so poorly formed.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the questions the press corps asked—and we'll show you the question they should have posed. We were amazed when a trio of scribes couldn't ask the right question on Monday. But when the Tuesday briefing occurred, they floundered all over again.
Frost described the road not taken. We'll formulate the question not asked. Our scribes are good at several things, but performing the basic tasks of their trade may not be numbered among them.
That said, it's all anthropology now! Our species can't high-jump fifteen feet or run a three-minute mile. Beyond that, it now seems that our species isn't equipped to handle such tasks as this.
Tomorrow: The question not asked