And poor Sean Spicer. O.K., so he denied a minor historical detail like the gassing of millions of Jews by the Nazis. It’s not like anyone else in the Trump administration has ever seemed oblivious to history, lied, insulted religious, ethnic or racial minorities or ignored the Holocaust before.
Actually, all of these cases are part of a pattern.
United, like the other increasingly monopolistic airlines, routinely overbooks flights, treats its passengers with contempt and inconveniences them unnecessarily. Wells Fargo is just another huge bank that has ripped off its ordinary customers and skirted or broken the law for decades, largely with impunity. Rice has a habit of repeating spin that turns out to be wrong (as on Benghazi) and Americans have heard false accounts about weapons of mass destruction before (although in President George W. Bush’s case, the weapons didn’t exist).
Spicer twists the truth as frequently as regular people change their socks; he began his first full day as White House press secretary by lying about the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration.
On Tuesday, Spicer compared Hitler, favorably, to Syria’s dictator — saying that whatever other naughty things the Nazi leader may have done, he didn’t “sink to using chemical weapons.” When journalists pointed out that Hitler had ordered millions of Jews gassed to death, Spicer said that at least he moved them to “Holocaust centers.”
“I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers,” Spicer said, referring to what most of us call towns and cities. Are we supposed to conclude that it’s worse to drop bombs on people than to ship them in cattle cars to murder factories?
There is so much appalling about this episode that it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with the fact that the Trump White House has a real issue with the Holocaust. It released a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that didn’t mention Jews, and a spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, later explained that the omission showed how “incredibly inclusive” the Trump team was and how much they grieved for “all of those who suffered.” Trump brought Steve Bannon, a man who made millions off racism, white nationalism and anti-Semitism, into his White House (though given Trump’s recent comments about him, we can at least hope that he might not be there much longer).
Spicer’s ignorance about history is shocking, but then again his boss, the president, didn’t seem to know who Frederick Douglass was or that he lived in the 19th century.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN on Tuesday, Spicer said, “I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison.”
His comments were not inappropriate and insensitive. They were disgusting. And what did he mean by “mistakenly” — that he made a boo-boo about the Holocaust, or that he actually uttered the thoughts spinning around his brain? It’s not just that Spicer said those things about Hitler. It’s that he thought them in the first place.
Spicer did better on Wednesday, telling an audience at the Newseum in Washington that his remarks were “inexcusable and reprehensible.” But he went on to complain about the attention he gets in his job as press secretary. “No matter what you do, no matter what you wear, it gets amplified to a degree that you couldn’t imagine,” he said.
Actually we can all imagine, but this is typical Trumpian deflection. The president said in February that “nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” and told Fox Business on Wednesday that he has failed to fill so many jobs because the long-established “process” turned out to be hard.
Spicer’s real regret seemed to be that he was taking attention away from Trump’s “decisive” military action in Syria. Speaking in his trademark creepy monotone, he told Blitzer on Tuesday that he didn’t want to distract Americans from the president.
After all, saying ignorant, racist, xenophobic things is Trump’s job.