Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Not My Call

It gives me pause when Charlie Pierce, (arguably) the best, and (barely arguably) the most entertaining political blogger in the country, urges "fire the man. Or let him resign. I don't care. But do it now."

I question myself when Dan Rather, one of the finest journalists of modern times, and clearly one of the best broadcast journalists of all time, maintains that Sean Spicer's "line of rhetoric is so unhinged, so amateurish, so lacking in the context and perspective necessary for statesmanship and diplomacy that I do not see how Mr. Spicer can be allowed to continue in his current position."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted "it's time to fire press sec. Sean Spicer" and, the venerable Anne Frank Center contended "Spencer's statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary" and "Trump must fire him at once."

They're all sane and sober voices. And they're all wrong.

A president's press secretary does not formulate policy or strategy. He or she (typically, "he") is given the task of meeting members of the media and feeding them the President's line. He's expected to dodge many questions and spin the answers to the others to put the President of the United States in the best light.  He is a sort of verbal stenographer, placing into the public record thoughts and beliefs in the manner the President would like them expressed.

Conceivably, Donald Trump will find Sean Spicer excessively forthright, offensive, or inept, and set him loose so that he can find "more time to spend with my family" or whatever rationale is now in vogue when an employee is given his walking papers. But that is the choice of Donald J. Trump.

This is an Administration filled with scoundrels galore, including likely anti-Semites Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, a truly remarkable situation given that the Administration is not filled at all.  It is headed by a guy who, asked in February about anti-Semitism in the USA and globally, responded "Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had: 306 Electoral College votes ."

(As always, Trump got around to implying that he couldn't possibly be anti-Semitic because his daughter is Jewish. Trump is 70 years old. In his formative years, when whites of dubious tolerance were asked about their racial attitudes, they sometimes replied "some of my best friends are colored." Trump learned well.)

When an individual makes an outrageous statement such as did Spicer, there is a clamor for an apology.  Responding to pleas he be fired, the press secretary did not "apologize to anyone who could have been offended by anything I said."  Instead, he stated

I'm not, you know, in any way standing by them. I was trying to draw a comparison for which there shouldn't have been one. It was insensitive and inappropriate. I should have stayed focused on the Assad regime and the dangers that they have brought to their own people and the terrible atrocities they did. And to drag any other comparison into this was not appropriate.

As investigative reporter and relentless Trump critic (or Trump critic and relentless investigative reporter) David Cay Johnston recognized, Spicer offered no excuses. Rather, Johnston told Chris Hayes Tuesday evening, "Spicer demonstrated that he has good manners- he just apologized."

Spicer, who admitted Wednesday "I've let the President down.... I sought people's forgiveness because I've screwed up,"  serves no purpose other than to represent the President as Donald J. Trump wishes to be represented. If Trump finds it advantageous to set him loose, so be it. If he does not, so be it. The prospect of Kellyanne Conway, or another slicker liar, as presidential press secretary should not be invigorating to the media, Democratic leaders, or the American public.

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