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Huckabee-Sanders Offers Up Weak Response to Biden

Huckabee-Sanders Offers Up Weak Response to Biden

To give the traditional response to President Biden’s State of the Union speech, Republicans selected the newly elected governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders.  Her more prominent previous political position was as a Press Secretary for President Trump. 

I like Huckabee-Sanders – and I agree with most of her positions on the major issues.  I am not – and never have been – impressed with her ability to effectively communicate from the public stage.  In fact, in a previous commentary when she was press secretary, I suggested that Trump replace Huckabee-Sanders with a more effective representative.

My main criticism of Huckabee-Sanders was that she was not – as the saying goes – fast on her feet.  She lacks a certain charisma.  Her responses to questions were weak.  She was not good at nailing it.

Watching her give the Republican response did not change my opinion of her public speaking ability.  I had the feeling that she wrote the response herself – and that would explain part of the problem.  I rated her performance as one of the worst I had seen in terms of moving public opinion – and that was her primary job.

So that was wrong?

First of all, it was too much about … Sarah Huckabee-Sanders.  She told us about being a mother … about her bout with thyroid cancer … her trip with President Trump to the Middle East war zone.  None of that was germane to the State of the Union speech.

In addition, she offered a lot of platitudes and general criticism of Biden and Democrats – again, that had nothing to do with rebutting Biden’s eminently rebuttable speech point-by-point.  In fact, it was virtually impossible to find a single counterpoint on a specific subject.

I assume that she had an advance copy of the speech with which to prepare her response.   That is the tradition.  Most past responders would use it to craft a more specific rebuttal – and then make margin notes based on watching the President’s speech.

She tended to rely on general GOP talking points as if she was not engaged in a debate with the President.  Her speech seemed to have been drafted and given by someone who could only assume what Biden would say.  The Huckabee-Sanders’ response seemed to disconnect from Biden’s address to Congress.

In many ways, Huckabee-Sanders’ “rebuttal” came off more as a campaign speech by and for … Huckabee-Sanders.  So much so that a friend of mine, who saw a portion of her response, thought she was throwing her hat in the ring for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.  He did not recognize what he saw as a rebuttal to Biden.

Why she was chosen to give the Republican response is a mystery.  There are a lot of more effective speakers in the pantheon of Republican political figures.  In selecting Huckabee-Sanders, the Republican National Committee may have been avoiding giving the platform – and an edge — to a potential presidential candidate.  Of course, that takes out of consideration arguably the GOP’s most articulate and effective speakers.

There was so much in Biden’s speech that could – and should – have been refuted.  In general, I thought it was a lost opportunity for the Republicans to take some of the hot air out of Biden’s balloon.  That is allegedly the purpose of the opposition response, but that is not what Huckabee-Sanders did, in my judgment.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. mike

    Monday morning quarter backs make me sick

  2. rebel

    i thought it was a damn good speech. one of the better ones. i didn’t and will never watch a democrook speech. i just could not ebelieve he looked straight at the camera to the people of the united states and told lie after lie. ms Sanders will make a great gov for arkansas

  3. Sharon

    You are entitled to your views, but what I heard was all truth and no lies !!!

    • larry Horist

      Sharon … As I said, I like her personally and a agree with her on issues. My concern has been that she is not very effect in communicating. I prefer some who can take those issues and convince more than the already convinced. The choir may love her, but you need to reach the entire political congregation.

  4. Darren

    Monday morning Q backs bother me as well.
    But Larry, you have it on the money.

  5. Doug Corrigan Jr.

    Sanders’ speech was reminiscent of Quid Pro Groper Joe Bidet’s response to Chinese spy balloons: Watch from a distance, cower and tip toe to the scene a week later to do some limited cleanup.

  6. Jpop

    All I know is that it was a very good speech. Georgia has a great Governor ( better than Michigan by far).