Sarah Huckabee Sanders is best known to the US public for running the White House on a daily basis, a television performance in which the president's press secretary can raise questions and cast questions in general without raising her voice wet blankets over the countless fires burning around the administration of Donald Trump. But perhaps the sundersesque moment is perhaps one that occurred outside of the West Wing, at a low-profile February event in Downtown Washington. She appeared alongside Mike McCurry, who held the same position under Bill Clinton, on a panel discussion about the job. McCurry let her go.
"You must have an administration committed to respecting the role of the free press," McCurry said. "You can not have a president who declares you an enemy and spends fake news every day."
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Trump has grown and trusts Sanders after several reports from within the White House, not least because of her unwavering, unyielding intercession in his name. But she had not lost a fight that evening. She tried to defuse McCurry with one of her jokes ̵
"You can not do this job in an area where you are at war and say you are at war with these people every day," McCurry said.
"I do not think I've ever said anything like that," Sanders
McCurry went on: Her boss's war on the media threatened the glue that holds our democracy together.
Sanders finally had enough. "We did not declare war on the press," she said. She smiled at the apparent ridiculousness of the idea and even chuckled.
A murmur spread in the small crowd. The event was sponsored by the White House Correspondents' Association and filled with reporters who had just witnessed this war. Her boss called her the "enemy of the American people" and used Twitter to attack individual journalists by name. For more than a year, he had campaigned against the media, who were more open than any president in history. And Sanders had been his main character. From her podium, she had advertised the "Fake News Awards," accusing reporters of "purposely misleading the American people," claiming just a week earlier that the media was threatening national security by reporting leaked information. Here, in a moment, she had not simply dropped McCurry's accusation, but conjured up a whole alternative reality.
That's exactly why the president loves her, according to a former Trump administration official I talked to. "That's what Trump means, she has a good way around her," the former official says. "If she says anything, it's totally straightforward, it can be crazy, but it's totally straightforward."
Like many others in the Trump era, the Sarah Huckabee Sander's show is unlike anything Washington has ever seen.
"I do not really recognize the job anymore," says Jay Carney, who has worked under President Barack Obama as a press officer.
"It feels very different," says Ari Fleischer, who held the post under President George W. Bush.
Most press secretaries have served as hype men for their bosses, arguing that, as one former press spokeswoman put it, ideally, briefing to briefing, week to week and Year to year. Sanders does not do that. This administration does not create cases over time; it just tries to survive the day. In the midst of a constant drumbeat of surprise and scandal, she is there to push back the press and suppress her enthusiasm.
And she is very, very good at it. Sanders has a unique talent that has not yet been considered a talent: it can destroy a room. They almost have to be in the White House meeting room, a claustrophobic room full of reporters and photographers, to appreciate their art. When the bright light is on and the cameras snap and everyone yells, "Sarah! Sarah!" With her hands in the air a tangible stream flows through her. The moment Sanders unleashes her hallmarks, energy is lost.
The way in which several current and former officials formulated it: Sarah Huckabee Sanders prevents the President from turning down every day.
Trump is of course obsessed with television. and he does not manage any part of the government as obsessively as he manages his own image on the screen. The anxious, fierce performances of his first press secretary, Sean Spicer, tended to increase Trump's own state of anxiety. But Sanders is different, and she's playing a bigger role now than you might think she was a press secretary. The way several current and former officials put it: Sanders keeps the president from toppling every day.
"It's crucial," says a former government official. "Vitally important," says another former official, adding, "I do not think she's interchangeable, I do not think there's anyone out there like her."
And her role is growing. After Communications Director and Trump confidant Hope Hicks announced in February that she would be leaving the White House, Sanders was asked to add communications to her current duties, a White House official and another source familiar with the situation said , Sanders remained seated, but she is expected to step into Hicks's shoes in another sense, taking on part of her role and advising and supporting a fugitive president.
The public was not always friendly to Sanders, caricatured in cartoons as a sour, cranky figure, and a lightning rod for public frustration over the Trump's morose relationship Government has become facts. But those who have known her for years see another person: they swear by her as loyal, professional, charming and witty. She manages to keep up with her former colleagues over the years and remains closely associated with the person whose work she has taken on, Spicer, in a rare Washington collegiality. Some reporters even go behind the scenes to like them. How does this person turn into briefings into such a different person, a kind of denier-in-chief, at a critical moment for American democracy?
It's all about her relationship with her one-person audience, and what? Role of the press secretary has become under him. And the secret is how it got into the White House at all.
To really appreciate Sarah Huckabee Sanders you first need to know what the job has done to Sean Spicer. He was a longtime political trench fighter and veteran of the Republican National Committee. He came under pressure to communicate Trump's message. The job required him to lie, his answers were sorted out and he got into the power struggles of the early Trump White House. "There used to be a process that was followed by everything, and I think the rules went out the door," says Spicer. Everything in the White House of Trump was harder. "You pick the variable, it's ten."
Sanders did not come from Washington, or even from institutional politics-she spent years learning from a different set of rules. Trump was not the first charismatic, populist conservative she worked for. The other gave her the job at the age of nine.
In 1992, her father, Mike Huckabee, led his first nationwide campaign as a Republican for the US Senate of Arkansas. "Since she was in elementary school, she has experienced politics first-hand," says Huckabee. "She was involved in it all, camping with me on weekends and spending flyers at land shows."
The pastor who had become a candidate would give his daughter $ 5 and a stack of aviators and tell her that all the planes were gone, she could treat herself to cotton candy or a ride. This first campaign did not go well, but he returned a year later to win a special election for the Lieutenant Governor, and then a year later to defend his place. It was his third nationwide campaign in three years. Sarah was 11. "She always wanted to be in the room," Huckabee recalls. "I remember standing around the kitchen table listening to Dick Morris explain crosstalks."
Sanders was not shielded from the unpleasant side of the business. "Arkansas politics has been pretty brutal," says Huckabee, telling of personal attacks in a still-democratic state recently ruled by Bill Clinton. And then there was the gloss of the press. When the teenage girl Sarah got a car accident, she made the papers. Huckabee, who served as governor for another ten years, considered broadcast media to be fair, but in his view, "the printing press in Arkansas was rather slanted and largely pro-democratically predominant."  When her friend Leslie Rutledge, a former Huckabee employee, now Attorney General in Arkansas, said, "As a child she held a press conference every day."
Whatever came, the family gathered around the patriarch, and Sarah followed closely in his footsteps. She joined the fake negotiation and debating clubs in Little Rock Central High School and was named secretary of the Arkansas Federation of Teenage Republicans. "We chose her because she was capable," a member said at the time. "By chance, she is also the daughter of the governor." She then visited his alma mater, the Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he worked on his re-election campaign for 2002 as field coordinator. This year, she was spurred on by her father and also registered as the main plaintiff in a suffrage case. A district judge had deprived the student of the right to vote in local elections, and Sanders signed with the ACLU to challenge the verdict. They won and liberated hundreds of students on the conservative Christian campus to vote for Mike Huckabee.
In another person, such a record could appear transparently ambitious. But Sanders was not like that, says former political scientist Hal Bass. "She was a joy to be with, she was fun … She smiled, she was funny," says Bass. "I think you do not see much of it in your public role."
Sanders' truly formative experience was her father's campaign for president in 2008, a family-centered venture similar to that which Sanders would join eight years later. After working for George W. Bush after college, she returned as political leader to her father and planted in Iowa to direct the efforts of the campaign. Former Huckabee colleagues remember their readiness to do any task, draw nightly and speak openly with their father. Through long days and long nights and bull sessions at P.F. Chang's grew up near several employees, including a volunteer named Bryan Sanders, who was to be employed full-time and later become her husband.
During the primaries, Huckabee, the bass guitarist former governor who had more than lost 100 pounds and run a marathon, emerged something of a media darling. But the members of the campaign, including his daughter, were quickly frustrated with the cartoon pastor whom they believed was portrayed on television. "We were the original & # 39; they are not fair to us" group, "says Chip Saltsman, Huckabee 2008 campaign manager.
Huckabee jumped to an angry victory in Iowa, but by March was flooded by John McCain and out of the race. However, as Sandra's Point person in Iowa, Sanders had a real win, something her ticket to national politics could have improved. Instead, she decided to run her father's PAC to support candidates who agreed with his views. Sanders would take over other clients: she led John Boozman's successful campaign for the US Senate of Arkansas in 2010 and worked briefly on Tim Pawlenty's deserved presidential election in 2012. But when her father decided to throw his hat in the ring in 2016, she volunteered to his campaign manager. It gave her a seat in the front row to the hurricane that would hit the Republican Party.
Mike Huckabee was backstage on July 18, 2015 at the Family Leadership Summit in London Ames, Iowa, when candidate Donald Trump introduced his feelings about John McCain. "He's not a war hero, he's a war hero because he was captured," Trump said. "I like people who have not been captured, okay?"
The former Arkansas Governor recalls a Trump employee standing next to him and said, "I think I have the shortest term of a political advisor." But Huckabee had a different attitude. "I watched and listened to the crowd and how they reacted, and I thought, 'Mmm, boy,'" says Huckabee.
The reading of his daughter was similar. When Huckabee retired after only 1.8 percent of the votes in Iowa, Sanders needed a new political home. She wondered if she had the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton. "Sarah is from Arkansas, you have to remember," says her husband Bryan Sanders. "And she grew up all her life with the Clintons."
"That was the driving force," he says. "We must do everything in our power to defeat Hillary Clinton."
She likes both Trump's chances and his message, says her husband. "Her father and Trump said many similar things," says Bryan Sanders. "They talked about the fact that Washington needs a big change, and they both fought very hard against establishing campaigns."
But in other ways, Trump could not be more different than her father. Huckabee is a man of God who brought up his children deeply Christian; Trump lived as if he had a huge bingo card of sins and tried to check every box. Bryan Sanders says that his wife's belief is "the defining aspect of her life", which made Trump more attractive to her. She liked what he said about abortion and religious freedom, as well as the kind of judges he wanted to prescribe, including the Supreme Court. "It's not hard to understand why evangelicals supported him," says her husband.
As for Trump's personal mistakes? "Nobody who has ever held office is sinless," says Mike Huckabee. "Part of it is that she understands that the essence of human life is that everyone is a sinner." For explanation he brings the German industrialist Oskar Schindler on the plan – "a scoundrel, he was really a terrible man" – who also risked his livelihood to save hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. (When I stopped and asked Huckabee if he really did make a comparison between Donald Trump and Oskar Schindler, Huckabee said, "No, not necessarily, I mean, it could be, but it's just a bigger principle.")
So Sanders signs with Trump. With her Christian faith and steady demeanor, she quickly became one of the campaign's most reliable surrogates. "When we deployed them, we used them in difficult conditions," says Bryan Lanza, who has taken over the surrogates for the Trump campaign. "She's a professional colleague, and there were very few in this business, and especially in Trumpworld."
Trump took notice of it. "When I saw her on TV during the campaign, he was very impressed with her," says Hicks. Trump would ask Hicks for Sanders's phone number so he could compliment her, or he'd tell Hicks to sign it up in his name. "He would always comment on how intrepid she was, how good she was, how enlightening she was," says Hicks, "and really tough in these sometimes challenging circumstances."
Two days after the release of the famous "Access Hollywood band, where Trump bragged about grabbing women's genitals, Sanders went on CNN with Jake Tapper to vouch for her candidate, condemning Trump's words but said the Christian thing would be to accept his apology. "Both candidates are flawed," she told Tapper. "There is no perfect person." When Tapper urged her, Trump would apologize to any woman he actually did Sanders did a perfect Trump campaign: "Did Hillary Clinton apologize to the four American lives? Benghazi? "
In Trumpworld," Billy Bush Weekend "was seen as a dividing line: If you were inside, you would really be in it, and if you were not there, it would be impossible to ever really recover with Trump. Officially hired as Spicer's deputy, one day before Trump took office, she got her first chance to inform the press in May 2016 while Spicer was on duty in the Naval Reserve, having previously worked only as a political tactician – never in the PR – and a former government official watching their first briefings worried that their downhome delivery was not good enough for Trump, "I sat there and left, Trump's head has to explode," the former official says. And he loved it. "Trump always said," She has a way around her "and" She's really solid. "He also said she's" smart as her father. "
" Hard, but so he has described them to me, and I agree, "says Kellyanne Conway, White House Advisor.
In the following weeks, Trump began urging Sanders to give more briefings. With speculation that Spicer's fate was rampant, Sanders and her husband discussed what she would say if Trump offered her the job of a spokeswoman. Finally, on July 21, Spicer resigned. At the time, Bryan Sanders and her three children were on vacation with his family at Acadia National Park in Maine; She had shortened her vacation and returned to Washington. He was traveling with the children in the woods when he got a text. He said, "I'm the next press officer."
Sanders instantly brought a satisfied sense of order to a besieged press room and she dialed the temperature in the meeting room. A White House reporter judged Spicer's passage behind the podium to Sanders as follows: "She is a calm, competent expert, she may be lying, but she is simply more unwavering and calm when she does."
"It seems not to have the fear he had about it, "the reporter added.
***  Sanders has developed a series of signature movements on the podium. She will call a question "inappropriate" or distract herself with a joke, sometimes about her children. She will say that she does not know and has to find an answer, or that she simply did not have the opportunity to talk to the President about it. Often she will start a meeting too late, so it will run out, or call in another officer to kill time. But the reporters become furious when they flatly support the president when everyone in the room knows he's wrong. See this October 10 exchange between Trey Yingst, a reporter for the conservative-friendly One America News, and Sanders:  YINGST: The President repeated this claim today in the Oval Office and said we were the highest taxed nation in the world. Why does the president keep saying that? It is not correct overall.
SANDERS: We are the highest taxed corporation tax in the developed economy. That's a fact.
YINGST: But the president did not say that
SANDERS: He talks about that. We are the highest enterprise taxed in the developed economies of the world.
YINGST: Sarah, that's right, but the President repeats this claim that we are the highest taxed nation in the world
SANDERS: We are the highest taxed company nation.
YINGST: But that's not what he said. He said that we are the highest taxed nation in the world.
SANDERS: The highest taxed corporate nation. It seems pretty consistent to me. Sorry, we just have to agree, disagree.
Some reporters will call Sanders a liar. Others are more reluctant to break the L word, but are still frustrated with how they regularly veil and twist the truth. While Spicer was known for big explosions, reporters say Sanders is more like a million little things. "It's almost exhaustion at times writing the stories of the daily briefing because the number of things she's obviously misinterpreting is too many to burden your story with," says a White House reporter.
Here is a very incomplete list of Sanders's misadventures with the truth:
- 2. August 2017: Trump said not lied when he claimed the Mexican president called to praise his immigration policy or, when he said, called the Scouts of America Scout to praise a speech he delivered to the National Scout Jamboree. (No call was made.)
- 1. November 2017: Immigration plaintiffs entering the United States for diversity visas are not being investigated. (They are.)
- 2. November 2017: Denied that Trump called the US justice system "a joke". (Hours ago, Trump said about the justice system: "What we have right now, it's a joke and it's a joke."
- February 20, 2018: Said, "The president did not say that Russia was not interfering." (He has.)
- March 27, 2018: Said there had been a citizenship issue "included in every census since 1965, except for 2010 when it was removed." (No citizenship issue has been on the full count since 1950
Sanders declined to comment for this article, but both her husband and her father say that any characterization of her as a liar is unfair. "All I know is that Sarah never does anything will hurt her conscience, "says Bryan Sanders," She has never been asked to do anything that violates her conscience. "
By blasting his credibility live on TV, Spicer seems the kind of hefty book business or sweet m company performance, the press secretary on the other side welcomed the work. But Sanders seems to have nothing to do with it. Those around her say that she has never been one who has looked forward, but is always focused on her work and how she has been loyally fighting for the person she works for since she was nine years old.
"Sarah and her dad are like Ivanka and her dad," says Conway. "They are very close, and the daughters came to the family business. There is a similarity."
Whatever the cost of their credibility, it is beyond question that Sanders stature grew in the White House. She is one of the few people who can actually talk to the president and even postpone his position, several officials say. They speak before most briefings, and although they can be direct, a senior administration official describes the particularly skilful way in which Sanders has evolved to drive Trump back. Normally, she does not bluntly contradict him, but teaches him how the press might react to something. For example, the official says that if Sanders rejects Trump's proposed strategy, she might say, "Well, here's what the following question will be on this subject, so how would we answer that?" It's a tactic that allows her to divert the president without telling him directly that he's wrong.
And she has another ability that is especially valuable when working for a boss who does not always operate on a plan. When problems arise that Trump has not yet addressed, Sanders is adept at channeling his thinking, Conway said. "Sarah is really good at speaking for the president (19459059), he has not done that yet," she says.
"She understands, you can not have these jobs unless you really understand the client, and she does," says Conway. "He respects her and if she disagrees with him or has questions, it is always formulated with respect. The hard person you see on TV is also the hard person."
According to Hicks, "Their relationship is a lot has become stronger since she officially took the podium. "In addition to their time together in the White House, the President calls Sanders often at home.
Sarah and her father are like Ivanka and her father. They are very close, and the daughters came to the family business. There is a similarity.
Behind the scenes, Sanders also has a better reputation than one can imagine with White House reporters, and when they confirm something outside the camera, they have a reputation for being honest, usually telling them false stories Some reporters – especially those from smaller outlets – complain that they ignore them and seem contemptuous, but others find them accessible and understand their role. "It's different from the show you see on TV says, "says one who adds that Sanders is often helpful in facilitating logistics.
So, how does that person stand behind the podium?
In the course When I reported this article, I asked more motivating them as a dozen of their friends and colleagues, the answer has never been a problem. "We did not talk much about politics," recalls Matt Reisetter, a member of the Huckabee campaign. who spent hours at Sanders in Iowa. The image that emerges is someone driven by elemental loyalty.
"She does not consider the president as an employer," says Saltsman, the former Huckabee campaign manager, with whom she remains closely associated. "In her view, she defends a family member, because she has always done so."
Huckabee agrees. "I think it can be a lot of truth," he says. "She thinks her job is to speak for the person she has entrusted to you." However, speaking for Trump carries risks.
Sanders prays and reads before each discussion from a book of devotions in her office overlooking the lawn of the White House. Kunstwerke von ihren Kindern hängen an einem Brett hinter ihrem Schreibtisch, und auf der anderen Seite des Raumes ist ein Regal mit ein paar Büchern, einschließlich Das christliche Leben und Charakter und Vom Winde verweht . Sie ist die erste Mutter, die in diesem Job tätig ist, und fast jeder, der mit ihr zu tun hat, bewundert ihre Fähigkeit, Arbeit und Leben in Einklang zu bringen.
Spicer sagt, eine der größten Herausforderungen des Jobs sei, wie flüssig Informationen sein können. "Wenn Sie für Trump arbeiten, ziehen Sie sich an und machen Sie sich bereit", sagt er. "Sie versuchen täglich, die aktuellsten und genauesten Informationen zur Verfügung zu stellen, die Sie haben. Und das Problem ist, dass es sich in vielen Fällen um ein sich ständig weiterentwickelndes Problem oder einen Prozess handelt. "
Manchmal entwickeln sich Probleme auf weltumspannende Weise. Kurz nach 16.00 Uhr Am 8. März war Sanders im Büro mit ihren obersten Stellvertretern untergebracht und erwartete, dass sie für den Rest des Nachmittags in Versammlungen sitzen bleiben würde. In diesem Moment stürmte eine Angestellte in ihr Büro und erzählte ihr, dass Trump, mit Vizepräsident Mike Pence in seiner Spur, gerade aus dem Oval Office durch ihre Tür marschiert war und auf dem Weg war, um mit der Presse zu sprechen. Sanders eilte durch den Flur in den Besprechungsraum, wo – schockierende Reporter mit seinem improvisierten Auftritt – Trump sagte, es werde um 19.00 Uhr eine große Ankündigung geben. Und dann, puh, war er weg.
Als die Reporter versuchten, herauszufinden, was vor sich ging, schienen Trumps Pressesprecher so ahnungslos wie alle anderen. Sanders wusste, dass Trump sich mit einer südkoreanischen Delegation getroffen hatte, und als sie vom Briefing-Raum zurück zu seiner Residenz gingen, erklärte er ihr den Rest: Er hatte gerade die Einladung des nordkoreanischen Diktators Kim Jong Un angenommen. Dies war ein plötzlicher, radikaler Wandel in der amerikanischen Politik gegenüber einem Schurkenregime, und er brachte das Militär und das Außenministerium zum Durcheinander. In der Besprechung am nächsten Tag fügte Sanders dem Treffen weitere Bedingungen hinzu – Nordkorea musste konkrete Schritte zur Denuklearisierung unternehmen -, als hätte sich am Tag zuvor nichts geändert. Ihre neu erfundene Realität erfreute Trump wahrscheinlich, obwohl die Schlagzeilen weniger freundlich waren und sich auf den Walkback konzentrierten.
Die Korea-Episode folgte Sanders schwierigstem Abschnitt im Weißen Haus. Anfang Februar kam es zu Berichten, dass die ehemaligen Ehefrauen des Personalsekretärs Rob Porter ihn des geistigen und körperlichen Missbrauchs beschuldigten. Sanders war mit Porter befreundet und schloss sich mit Hicks zusammen, mit der Porter damals zusammen war. Basierend auf Porters Leugnung gab Sanders die Daily Mail die die Geschichte brach, eine Erklärung, die ihn unterstützte.
Dann wurden Bilder, die Porters angeblichen Missbrauch zeigten, öffentlich. At that point, the standard PR playbook calls for showing contrition, cutting losses and moving on. But Sanders worked off the Trump playbook, which forbids backing down. She read a statement from Porter at a briefing that referred to the allegations as “a coordinated smear campaign.” She convened a group of four reporters, off the record, to let Porter defend himself in person. Even amid the #MeToo movement, “Early, she gave Rob the benefit of the doubt,” says a person close to the situation.
As the White House fumbled, questions about what the administration knew and when mushroomed into bigger stories about why Porter—and then several others, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser—had for so long been allowed to work with interim security clearances.
In a February 12 briefing, Sanders said the White House had learned of the extent of the allegations against Porter just six days earlier, and had accepted his resignation “within 24 hours.” The next day, though, FBI Director Christopher Wray directly contradicted her, testifying under oath to Congress that the White House had been made aware of the allegations multiple times, and months earlier.
Sanders was blistered in the press, and grew frustrated at the breakdown in process around her. “Sarah’s frustration was, you’re sending me out there and I don’t have the answers to all of these questions,” says the person close to the situation. “How can you send me out there to answer all these questions when you have not given me the answers?”
In the next briefing, after Wray’s testimony, Sanders maintained that Wray’s explanation was compatible with hers, arguing the White House personnel security office was not supposed to share information with other West Wing staffers, but her wording was noticeably cautious. Asked whether anyone in the White House personnel security office—which would have received the reports on Porter from the FBI—communicated with anyone in the West Wing about his clearance, Sanders replied, “I’m not aware of any communication. I can’t say definitively, but I’m not aware of any communication.”
The Porter episode wasn’t just a disaster for Sanders, but for Trump himself. The snowballing scandal ended up costing Kushner and several others their security clearances, and derailed the administration’s agenda for weeks. Since then, some reporters have noticed Sanders couching her language more carefully at briefings. Phrases like, “to the best of my knowledge” and “as far as I’m aware” seem more frequent.
Lately, Trump’s impulsive decisions have also seemed to become ever more frequent. In March, after the Washington Post reported that national security adviser H.R. McMaster was on his way out, Sanders denied any problem, tweeting“Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.”
A week later, McMaster was gone, and the credibility of Sanders—or anyone who purported to speak for Trump—was questioned anew.
April Ryan, the American Urban Radio Networks correspondent known for her battles with Sanders, believes the job is taking its toll on her. “The stakes are so high, and people are very angry,” Ryan says, noting that Sanders has been the subject of countless attacks, some related to her job, but also many unfair personal ones. “We’ve had conversations about our war wounds,” Ryan says. “Anything negative, after a while, it wears on you.”
How long will Sanders last? Rutledge, the Arkansas attorney general and former Huckabee campaign lawyer, says there’s “always speculation back home in Arkansas whether she would come back and run.” But Bryan Sanders says his wife has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. “Some days are better than others,” he says, but “she loves her job.”
Outwardly, Sanders has shown only the smallest signs of cracks—the extra “as far as I know” here or “to the best of my knowledge” there. She has remained loyal. “She goes into the White House every day, and she’s focused on the day ahead, doing her job to the very best of her abilities every day. She’s not thinking about what’s next,” her husband says. “I think it’s something that her dad’s always taught her.”