Corrupt and unscrupulous politicians have used their surrogates time and again to shield themselves from public scrutiny. Those old enough to remember, or who have studied Watergate, cannot forget that Richard Nixon left L. Patrick Gray, the Director of the FBI to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind.” This was to deflect attention away from the Nixon administration shenanigans.
The same might be said today of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer has been tainted by Trump’s lies, much like Gray was by the Watergate scandal. His press briefings, from day one, have become torturous to watch as he tries to explain away, deny, or reconstruct Trump’s obvious lies into some kind of palatable form that the media might accept.
What has been equally obvious from day one is that Sean Spicer is in way over his head as Press Secretary.
The role of White House Press Secretary requires someone who can assure the press he has the ear of the president and knows what is happening. It must be someone who can establish a rapport with the press in what is often an adversarial situation. The press secretary should be able to put the administration’s spin on issues, but should not outright lie about them. That is not to say that some have not lied, but at least their lies were not so obvious to everyone.
Some have been exceptional individuals ranging from Pierre Salinger in the Kennedy administration, Jody Powell in the Carter administration, and Dana Perino who spoke for George W. Bush. James Brady, Reagan’s Press Secretary was tragically injured in the assassination attempt on the president by John Hinckley, Jr. They all handled their duties with poise, class, and humor.
Sadly, Sean Spicer fulfills none of these criteria. He is, quite simply, the wrong person in the wrong job. He began by attacking the press for “deliberate false reporting” on the size of the crowds at the inauguration. His charges were easily disproved by side-by-side photographs of the crowds at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration and Trump’s crowd.
He then went on to say “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” His use of the word “period” would haunt in the days and weeks to follow.
He created a furor when he blocked access to seven major national news organizations, and the BBC, to a “press gaggle” where only media considered “friendly” to Trump were allowed to attend. The British did not take kindly to their official news organization being blocked and were further enraged by Spicer’s public claims that President Obama requested the British equivalent of our National Security Administration to spy on Trump.
The ruthless, and some say brutal, parodies of him by Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live have not helped his stature either. While Trump and many of his supporters think that SNL has gone too far in their portrayal of Spicer, it is only fair to say that he provided the ammo and the gun – they just pulled the trigger.
Spicer knows that he has an audience of one. It is not the press. It is not the American people. It is Donald Trump. And his attempts to please that audience reached an all-time low on Monday during the press briefing he held with FBI Director Comey was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.
His pathetic attempts to deflect from Comey’s devastating testimony were ludicrous. Did he really say that Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s Campaign Manager had “a very limited role for a very limited time.”? What did he mean when he referred to General Michael Flynn as “just a campaign volunteer.”?
One is tempted to feel sorry for Spicer. Covering for a boss like Donald Trump, who promotes the most outrageous lies on his Twitter account in the early morning hours without consulting anyone, cannot be easy. Perhaps Spicer thought, as many did, that Trump would become more “Presidential” in time. It is time that he, like most of America, realizes that is not going to happen.
This morning the “Trump-friendly” Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal finally came out with an editorial blasting Donald Trump. Murdoch, as you may know, also is the owner of Fox News. But he is also in the midst of delicate negotiations to purchase greater ownership in the British organization Sky. The WSJ editorial concluded with the following words “if he [Trump] doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake ‘President’.”
If Sean Spicer has an ounce of self-respect or dignity left, he should quietly step down. His resignation would speak volumes. It may go some small way to rehabilitating his tattered reputation. He might even land a gig on CNN, which for unknown reasons seems to like hiring former Trump employees. If he waits until Trump fires him, as he inevitably will, he will have a hard time finding a job covering city hall in any newspaper in Montana.
In the meantime, much like James Gray, he will be left to “twist slowly, slowly, in the wind” providing much-needed cover for a man who doesn’t deserve it.