Let us now praise Jennifer Rene Psaki—English major, sorority girl, mother of two. Let us praise her seemingly endless supply of monochrome crew-neck blouses and pencil skirts, the way she peels her mask off after striding to the lectern. Jen Psaki has been briefed by her 11 staffers; she has had her coffee (and her bagel, if it’s Wednesday); she is freshly armed with the latest talking points and she is not going to take any of your guff today.
Jen communicates just how on top of things she is by nodding ceaselessly throughout every question, interjecting an “uh-huh” or a “yep” to show she has not been caught off guard since the last clause of the reporter’s sentence. This is a patented bobblehead technique she perfected as a commentator at CNN in between the Obama and Biden Administrations. What she is saying or listening to is less important than what she is communicating with her demeanor at all times: that she is serious, that she is informed, that she is the adult in the room.
We have all met someone who behaves like this: someone who has done the homework and wants you to know it. Someone whose politeness is so aggressive that it can only be read as a kind of challenge. Jen Psaki dares you to find her off-putting. Why would you? She is smiling. She even had a joke written down that she made at the appropriate juncture. See? It says “laughing time” right here in the schedule from 5:01 to 5:03 PM.
Then laughing time is over, and it is time for the lies and the jabs and the polite little smirks. Jen Psaki is frankly disappointed that you would stoop so low as to question Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s right to paternity leave during a supply chain “crisis.” It’s not really a crisis, anyway: “people have more money, expendable resources, more people are working than they were a year ago.” The economy is getting built back better, says Jen, and our ports runneth over. What are you, some kind of Peloton slut who can’t wait five extra months for your new treadmill?
This is what Trump’s critics meant when they said we needed to restore “civility” to the White House: they meant we need the right kind of disdain for the right kinds of people, expressed in the right kinds of ways. Gone are the mean tweets, the off-color jokes, the rough pugilism. Now instead we have Jen Psaki, sneering avatar of an aristocracy that regards working Americans as less than dirt. People are straining to put food on the table and gas in their cars; they increasingly fail to see the point in going to work at all. Psaki’s response is that of the anointed class she represents: shut up and take it.
We are ruled over by a cabal of solipsists who feel outraged that the regressive pigs in flyover country express any opinions at all—about the fruits of their labor, about the security of their nation, about the health of their bodies. Their response is that we should “lower expectations” for affordable food, “welcome competition” from a rapidly arming China, and “follow the advice of health experts” on pain of unemployment.
Who can forget the treacly grin with which Psaki invited us to “stay tuned” for Biden’s forthcoming vaccine decree? She delights in her role, which is to act out the revenge fantasies of all who felt wounded in 2016 by the mere suggestion that their virtue is less than immaculate. We have to reckon with the fact that Psaki, loathsome though she may be, is doing her job exactly as intended. Her affronts are outrageous only to the people who already hate her: from her target audience they elicit shouts of “YAS Kween” and “drag him!” She is not slipping up when she insults your intelligence and riles up your countrymen against you, when she lies unblinkingly out in the open and defies you to do anything about it. That is her job, and she is good at it. She is doing exactly what she was put there to do.
No one with a spine should take instruction on “civility” from such a feckless cretin or anyone who enjoys her act. If we are to re-learn civic excellence, it will not be from a movement whose moral framework consists of slander and self-satisfaction. Remember that in 2022 and 2024 when they call you a fascist or a bigot or a domestic terrorist or whatever: these are people who think Jen Psaki is a good person. Their opinion about your morals literally doesn’t matter at all.