The latest Sean Spicer controversy was so, so stupid that I swore—swore I tell you!—that I would not lower myself to write about it.
The Trump Administration spokesman, making the dumb assertion that Assad is even worse than Hitler because Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” was absurdly—gleefully?— attacked as a Holocaust denier.ThnkProgress, which I am going to have to place on my “never trust these hacks” list, wrote that Spicer “argued that the Nazis never used chemical weapons during the Holocaust,” which is a lie, flat out. Spicer didn’t mention the Holocaust at all. Then The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect released a statement saying,
“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death.”
This is perhaps not quite a lie, since the combination of confirmation bias and paranoia could make this organization see Holocaust denial behind every rock, but it is no less ridiculous, inflammatory and unfair. Then some of my 2016 election-deranged friends—I now picture them wrapped in tin foil, wearing Groucho glasses and spreading DDT around as they sit cross-legged in a teepee with a flaming penguin on their heads—began citing the Anne Frank Center slander with approval, and garnishing likes from a lot of people who I usually like and who once had brains larger than marbles.
So now I have to defend Sean Spicer. Yecchh.
1. Everyone is calling for Trump to fire Spicer. Of course he should fire Spicer. He should have fired Spicer months ago. Sean Spicer is incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone. He is even more incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone than Robert Gibbs, who was the most incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone press secretary I ever had the pain of watching. (Obama’s subsequent press secretaries were just liars.). Spicer is much worse than Gibbs, though he doesn’t say uh-uh-un-um-um-um as much. I wish he would: they would be an improvement over what he does say. Spicer looks stupid and sounds stupid, so he represents the President and his entire administration as stupid WHICH THEY MIGHT BE, but his job is to place both in the best light possible. He does the opposite. This Hitler botch was just the most recent example.
2. Trump promised to appoint and hire “the best people,” so having one of the worst people imaginable representing his Presidency to the news media and the public leaves “incompetent” in the dust as “suicidal” takes over. This is especially true since the President knows that the news media is actively hostile to his leadership and is actively allied with the Democrats to bring him down and cancel out that damned election by any means possible. Trump’s situation screams out for a spokesman with the credibility, suave and wit of the late Tony Snow or the fierce intellect and articulateness of the very much alive Laura Ingraham. The fact that Trump can’t see that, and that his advisors haven’t threatened to walk out and join an anti-Trump rally if he refused to fire this clod and send him back to the Budget car rental desk or wherever he came from is really ominous. If “best people” means people like Spicer…well, I don’t like to think about it. And if the “You’re fired!” executive won’t fire someone who performs as horribly as him, who will he fire?
3. The Hitler statement was, no question, idiotic. At best, it was the most egregiously warped use of Rationalization # 32. The Unethical Role Model imaginable: Spicer was really saying, “why couldn’t Assad be more like Hitler?”! At worst, it was like walking into the buzz-saw of the Trump-hate narrative that the President and his team are virtual Nazis and secret anti-Semites. It was so dumb that the fact that Spicer didn’t physically try to stuff the words back into his mouth as they started coming out is signature significance that the man belongs in a home.
4. However—and again, I hate everyone who is making me defend this fool—Spicer was not “forgetting about the Holocaust” or “denying the Holocaust.” Spicer was, as stupid people often do, focusing narrowly and had his tunnel vision lasered in on war crimes and warfare. The Holocaust was not warfare; indeed, it helped Germany lose the war. It was going to take place with or without World War II. Nor was Zyklon-D a “chemical weapon” under the treaties and international laws banning such weapons after The Great War. Was the U.S. violating the chemical weapons ban when it sent convicted murderers to the gas chamber? Of course not, and I have never read any critics who said so. What Spicer was trying to say was that even Hitler didn’t employ chemical weapons on the battlefield, as horrible as he was. That is true. Hitler did not stoop to violating those rules of war. He violated other rules of war, but not that one. The Nuremberg trials prosecuted Nazis for crimes against humanity, not for breaking the treaties banning chemical weapons.
5. Later, the addled Spicer “explained” his dumb remark by saying that what he meant was that Hitler didn’t gas “his own people” on the battlefield, since the Jews were in “Holocaust centers,” meaning, I guess, concentration camps. At least he didn’t start quacking like a duck. No one in the room at the press briefing or watching Spicer as he engaged in his regular mangling of what we call “communication” could have honestly believed that he did not know about Hitler’s killing of six million Jews and other groups, or was denying it. Nonetheless, that’s what most of the news media claimed, and that’s what the Trump “resistance” decided to make the latest anti-Trump narrative.
6. Once I decided to debase myself by defending someone I have no respect for whatsoever who is being unethically smeared by people I have little more respect for (and in some cases , people I had more respect for prior to last November 8) , I checked to see if anyone else was “sinking” to defend Sean Spicer, and found that The Federalist had made my final point eloquently and accurately:
Despite efforts to make Spicer’s comments an imagined Passover-week slur on Hitler’s Jewish victims, the real source of the outrage is simple Trump hating. The reality is that the press has declared itself the avowed enemy of all things Trump and could not possibly have missed this opportunity to paint him by proxy as a Holocaust denier.
Further, Spicer—like the president—has been clear in his complaints about the media’s shortcomings. So this is also payback by a press that claims the right to say anything about anybody, but is terribly tender about the flanks during discussions of its own flaws.
But the problem goes deeper than that. In fact this dust-up, like many of Trump’s tangles with the press, reveals much more about the press than about the president. If the persistent and willful refusal of the press to fill their vital role as a conduit of reliable, uncolored information is in many ways the critical public policy crisis of our times—because it controls discussion of and action on all the other problems—this latest dustup is an invaluable crystallization of it….
In fact, this may be the chief benefit that Trump and his often ham-handed administration offers….As the Beltway belligerentsia howls in trumped up outrage over this simple error, much of the rest of the country is shaking their heads—at least those who saw or sought out the full context of Spicer’s comments in the proliferating samizdat of outside-the-mainstream news sources. This demonstrates the urgent need to do exactly that.
But Spicer still has to go.