You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Sean Spicer Responds To Comey Firing By Hiding In The Bushes

If you ever think that the Trump White House resembles a sitcom, you have to acknowledge that even the best comedy writers can’t top reality. Case in point: after the president fired FBI Director James Comey, Press Secretary Sean Spicer ducked behind a hedge to avoid the scrum of reporters ready to tackle any staffer with questions about the Comey situation.

Now, here’s a little more context to what went down: Spicer had just wrapped up an interview with Fox Business, and he needed an update on what was going on before he faced the rush of journalists. So he dropped behind the bushes for a quick convo with staffers, including Kellyanne Conway and Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

Spicer wound up speaking for about ten minutes off camera, trying to keep his tone light but expressing his annoyance and having to answer the same questions over and over. He referred reporters to the Department of Justice for details and timelines before walking back into the White House.

It’s just one more facet of the odd sequence of events that took place this week.

“Another Tuesday at the White House,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders quipped as she finished speaking on Fox News from its outdoor set, as the voice of Kellyanne Conway continued to spar with CNN’s Anderson Cooper from the next booth over.

I’m still waiting on Spicer to announce either a real-life version of Veep or a political version of The Office. (The Oval Office, anyone?) Because obviously the Trump White House will never cease to be fascinating and entertaining.

Spicer Apologizes For ‘Hitler’ But Germans Have Been Triggered

There’s just no escaping once you crack open a can of Hitler. It really doesn’t matter how much you apologize, or how much crow you scarf down, or how far down your own throat you’ve jammed your metatarsals. Press Secretary Sean Spicer is going to be force-fed the whole can.

In a week loaded with the most awful gaffes I’ve seen since Chris Christie last appeared in public, Spicer may have eclipsed United Airlines, but only because he mentioned Hitler during Passover, in the context of chemical weapons, and gassing “his own people”–not the Jews. Mentioning Hitler in any context is bad politics; doing it during Passover is just dumb; doing it in connection with chemical weapons and the Holocaust is fantastically dumb.

To his credit, Spicer apologized during a forum sponsored by the Newseum moderated by MSNBC host Greta Van Susteren, the AP reported.

“To make a gaffe and a mistake like this is inexcusable and reprehensible,” Spicer said. “It really is painful to myself to know that I did something like that.”

We know he didn’t mean it the way it came out, but once you open a can of Hitler…

“That obviously was not my intention. To know when you screw up that you possibly offended a lot of people,” Spicer continued. “I would ask obviously for folks’ forgiveness to understand that I should not have tried to make a comparison.”

But it’s too late. The Germans have been triggered.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said comparing Nazi war crimes to present-day situations “leads to nothing good.” It might even be illegal in Germany to bring up war crimes and Hitler in the context of present-day situations. I’m not sure about that one, but I think Spicer should steer clear of Berlin for a while.

Listen, it was a bonehead move. It was a dumb thing to say. But calling for Spicer to resign over it is a bit over the top. It’s not like he dragged a bloodied and screaming McClatchy reporter from the White House briefing room so Breitbart could have his seat. I know–too soon, too soon.

I believe these things come in threes, and we’ve now fulfilled the gaffe quota for this orbit of Venus around the sun (that’s 225 days). When the planets align again, we’ll see which large corporations and politicos fall to the fickle gods of the ginormous gaffe.

Everybody Knows What Sean Spicer Meant

So the perpetual outrage machine that is the internet has turned its attention back to Sean Spicer, the man who has what is probably the toughest job in politics, aside from Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail.  It seems that Spicer got caught being human and saying something that, while inartfully spoken in an epic way, doesn’t come anywhere near being spew of evil that his detractors will spend the next week making it out to be.  Let’s roll the clip:

Someone as despicable as Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.  You have to ask yourself if you are Russia, is this a country and a regime you want to align yourself with?

Yeah, I know.  Major face palm.  Then, like a man caught in flagrante delicto with the boss’s wife, he made things worse by attempting to say the equivalent of, “This really isn’t what it looks like.”

He was not using his gas on his own people the same way Assad was.

Which naturally led to responses like this on Twitter:

Even Chelsea Clinton (or whichever unpaid intern runs her Twitter account this week) got in on the action:

 

So in the blink of an eye, we’ve gone from a foot-in-mouth moment to Spicer being a Holocaust denier in bad need of a history lesson.  Even the United Airlines PR guy is probably shaking his head right now and saying, “Sucks to be that guy.”

I realize that stupid travels at the speed of light across the World Wide Web, but this has quickly reached a level of mendaciousness that is astonishing even for the mainstream media.  Everybody knows that Spicer was in no way trying to go easy on Adolph Hitler, or deny that he used chemical weapons to gas people to death in concentration camps.  What he meant to say was that even Hitler– unlike Bashar al-Assad–never deployed chemical weapons against civilian or military targets in the course of combat.  He was only trying to portray Assad as a really, really bad dude–not diss the millions of souls who perished during the Holocaust.

Spicer just did it badly.  And I do mean badly.

There’s no excuse for that, given that he’s a communications professional–and it does provide further proof that maybe doing Nazi comparisons during a press conference isn’t such a great idea.  Still, messing up and saying something sloppy is a far cry from actual malice, which his critics also know damn well.  Of course, that won’t stop them from kicking Spicer when he’s down (I can only imagine what SNL is going to do with this)–but I would defy anyone to speak to the press day after day, week after week, without screwing the pooch on occasion.

So have a drink on me, Sean.  You’ve earned it.

What’s It Even Like To Be Sean Spicer?

The other day, I had to get blood drawn for lab work. Sitting in the parking lot, I called Philip Swicegood, the managing editor here at The Resurgent, to let him know what’s going on. I’ve been fighting a bit of sickness the last few weeks and after a visit to an infectious disease specialist, finally got a diagnosis and the right meds to fix me up. Enough about me, I’ll be right as rain in a few days.

Casually, Philip mentioned that I’m missing the White House press briefing. I replied it was a hard choice, but I would take being stuck with a needle and filling vials with blood over listening to poor Sean Spicer have to eat another steaming bowl of offal. That’s when it occurred to me, as the headline reads: What is it even like to be Spicer?

There’s a scene in “Star Trek: Into Darkness” where Kirk and Uhura are on a turbolift and he realizes she’s in a tiff with her beau Spock.

“Wait, are you guys…Are you guys fighting?”

“I’d rather not talk about it, sir.”

“Oh, my God! What is that even like?”

Oh, you are the public mouth of President Donald Trump? I think you see where this is going.

Day after day, Trump tweets, and Spicer has to defend it. Trump says the most outrageous things, and Spicer has to stand by it. Trump tells Time magazine “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m President and you’re not,” and Spicer has to read that and suffer.

Suffering is part of the job being the top press relations person in the most covered house in the world. But working for Trump has to take it to levels beyond–or as Dark Helmet said, “they’ve gone to plaid.” There’s nobody in Washington, D.C. I’d rather have a beer with than Sean Spicer. That might not be a bad idea–according to Wikipedia at least, Spicer’s wife Rebecca works for the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Their fridge must be very well stocked.

Seriously, though. Spicer came up through the ranks of political spokesmanship, working for various congressmen, and NRCC and the NRC. He’s also been in the Naval Reserve as a PAO for coming up on 18 years and legitimately earned the rank of Commander (O-5). Can you imagine the ribbing he takes on whatever man-days when he has to wear the uniform and walk around the Pentagon?

His office wasn’t even unpacked on Jan. 21, so he threw on an ill-fitting jacket, walked into the White House briefing room and publicly sacrificed his virginity to a pointless screed on crowd size. There was no white wedding for Mr. Spicer that day.

Maybe this is all genius, and Spicer has switched roles from press liaison to disinformation officer. Maybe the things Trump says and tweets, that Spicer has to toe the line on, are brilliant deflections away from more important things the press would love to sabotage. That could be true, but either way, playing the fool when nobody in the room winks or nods has got to be taxing.

There is only so much humiliation a person can take, and only so many “alternative facts” someone with Spicer’s pedigree can swallow before it comes back up. So I have to wonder out loud, what drives the man? What keeps him getting up every day, going among the committee of vultures known as the White House press office, and feeding them carrion whilst partaking of it and proclaiming it delicious?

Does his office have padded walls, so on certain days when the man who lives alone in the White House residence tweets at 4 a.m., Spicer can freely punch them without fear of making holes in the fresh paint? Is there a fifth of Bourbon in his right hand bottom drawer with a double shot ready to pour at a moment’s notice? Does he walk the 60-odd steps over to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’s office, lie on the couch (the couch is there according to Steve Bannon, at least) and bare his very soul to his former boss at the RNC?

Does Spicer fish? What’s it even like to fish when you have to go back into the Piranha-infested water the next day? Does his blood pressure spike every time he checks Twitter?

What’s it like to read, day after day, all the palace intrigue CNN reports. It has to take a special person to read that the president hates you and regrets your existence every day and not let it bother you. Maybe Spicer and Trump pal around the White House bowling lanes (I’d say over a beer, but Trump doesn’t drink). Maybe they’re best buddies, but likely they’re not.

I would really love to have a beer with Spicer. I spent quite a bit of time in Rhode Island growing up as my sister and her family lived in Pawtucket, about 10 miles north of Spicer’s childhood home. He might import coffee milk to the White House, along with Awful Awfuls. He probably bowls duckpin.

How he became a Republican is a mystery to me, because I don’t know any from Rhode Island. I wasn’t aware any existed. I believe all the prison guards in R.I. jails come from Connecticut because there are so many Democrat politicians in jail and no Republicans to keep them in.

Maybe that’s really the story. A man who grew up in a state known for quirkiness, quahogs, failed coups (the Dorr Rebellion), and liberals had to experience incredible adversity as a conservative. That adversity could have prepared him for the daily shower of humiliation and eye rolls that is now his job.

Whatever drives the man, I must applaud that he’s made it two months, and has not broken. The Navy should recommend him to teach the SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) course. Because if a POW can hold up under what Spicer faces every day, the enemy would let them go out of admiration.

It’s a good thing that Trump doesn’t consider POW’s to be heroes, or he’d have to fire Spicer. Not that it would hurt his career–ratings of Spicer’s press briefings give news networks that carry them a 10-point bump. That beats the soap operas. Spicer would a great career outside of politics. He could even play himself on SNL (he might be the only one with an actual sense of humor there).

One day, we’ll have to grab that beer, buddy. Make it a Narragansett.

Anonymous Source Says Something. Named Source Disputes It. New York Times Believes the Anonymous Source.

I think the key bit of testimony from James Comey yesterday was this bit in an exchange with Peter King (R-NY):

Leaks have always been a problem. I read over the weekend subjects from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln complaining about them. But I do think in the last six weeks and couple of months there’s been, at least apparently, a lot of conversation about classified matters that’s ending up in the media, and a lot of it is just dead wrong which is one of the challenges because we don’t correct it.

A lot of what anonymous sources are saying is wrong. A good bit of it has been fabricated. But the media is reporting every salacious detail that comports with their world view. The latest comes today from the New York Times, which includes this key bit:

Within the White House, a number of Mr. Trump’s advisers — including the press secretary, Sean Spicer, who has himself repeated unsubstantiated claims of British spying on Mr. Trump — have told allies that Mr. Trump’s Twitter habits are making their jobs harder, said administration officials interviewed over the past week. Mr. Spicer said he has no problem with his boss’s tweeting. “It’s just not true. I have not commented on the tweets to anyone including my wife,” he said in an email.

An anonymous source says Sean Spicer is unhappy with President Trump’s tweeting. Mr. Spicer denies it. The New York Times reporter tweets it as fact and the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, has to call them out on Twitter for making up stuff.

One anonymous source tells the New York Times what the Times thinks has to be true. But the actual person denies it. Still, the Times runs the anonymous source as the credible fact.

This is the state of journalism in America. Narratives are more important than facts. Remember too that this is about traffic. No doubt Glenn Thrush’s tweet about Spicer will drive traffic to his story. That will boost the story on the screen at the New York Times that shows incoming traffic to the Times’ website. Reporters have every incentive to print stories with anonymous sources confirming their biases because scandal drives traffic and traffic ultimately drives paychecks and hiring and firing decisions.

Note To White House Press: You’re Not In Charge

Erick calls the Washington establishment press the “circle of jerks.” They’ve been told they’re in charge so long that they believe it. They’ve been kowtowed to, built up, stroked and boosted so much by so many that they really think they are a ruling class.

To wit: CNN wailed in lamentation on the dearth of on-camera press briefings, after briefly acknowledging “But it’s up to [Press Secretary Sean] Spicer, not the press corps.”

“We have noticed the lack of on-camera briefings,” Sabrina Siddiqui of The Guardian newspaper told CNN. “It is not normal to have this many ‘off-camera gaggles.'”

“We definitely have noticed,” said George Condon, National Journal’s White House correspondent, who doubles as a historian. “I can’t say that I am very surprised, though. They have been predicting something like this all through the transition.”

“Sean Spicer clearly was under orders to ‘shake up’ the briefing,” he added. “Fortunately, the more radical changes — like tossing the press out of the White House and eliminating the daily briefing — didn’t happen.”

It’s not “normal.” It’s not “established practice,” said some cardboard cut-out labeled “random expert who agrees with us” who CNN dug out of some producer’s speed dial or an archived story from 2008.

CNN’s whole argument carries the academic and intellectual weight of an offended professor stumped by a student’s question.

Televised briefings are valuable to TV networks for obvious journalistic reasons. Having on-camera answers is increasingly important for digital and social newsrooms too.

Oh. The answer is obvious. It’s “journalistic” reasons. Because it’s not journalism to simply quote Spicer on the record with words like newspapers do. No, no. It’s ratings. Televised briefings bring ratings, especially from the Trump White House.

This is the strategy I believed Trump would use if he really wanted to hurt the press. Maybe the press war isn’t as fake as I believed. Taking TV appearances off the daily menu will hurt CNN in a real way. There’s only so much hay they can make with recycled talking heads, panels and breathless reports of what Trump tweeted today.

Denying the TV networks fresh meat is actual war on them, and they don’t like it one bit. They thought they were in charge, but they’re not.

The Coming Trump Shakeup Should Start With Mike Flynn, Not Reince Preibus

Donald Trump is headed towards an administrative shakeup and it looks like he is headed in the wrong direction. The growing conventional wisdom is that he is going to toss out Sean Spicer and/or Reince Preibus in favor of the folks who are causing the most problems.

Conservatives have long been suspicious of Reince Preibus given his establishment pedigree, but his position as White House Chief of Staff makes him the first person to ever inhabit that office who is an evangelical, Bible believing Christian. That should, on world view alone, slow down the “toss Reince” movement. People have blamed him for a lot of things outside his control and blamed him for GOP issues that were not within his control all because he was chairman of the RNC. And now he is getting blamed for other people’s bad behavior.

On Spicer, I think the White House would be smart to move him into the Director of Communications role and out of the press room. Communications is where he excels. Day to day press dealings is not his speciality. He would be better directing the message instead of giving it.

The real shakeup, though, probably is not going to happen. It was neither Spicer nor Preibus who rushed out the immigration executive order without talking to people. That was Bannon and Miller. It was not Spicer or Preibus who vetoed a provision allowing green card holders back into the country. That was Bannon and Miller.

Likewise, it was not Spicer or Preibus who sent out Vice President Pence to give false information regarding Mike Flynn’s call with the Russians. That was Flynn himself.

Just compare and contrast the roll out of the immigration executive order and Neil Gorsuch. One was amateur hour, the other was professionally done.

Trump, perhaps, does not need to toss people out on the street. He should, however, streamline the office and let Preibus actually run it. Trump has long positioned himself as a man who lets all comers have access to him. As President, that becomes problematic because everyone wants access. Access is power. But too many are letting power go to their heads.

The President would be smart to let Preibus manage the office and access. Give Kellyanne Conway plenary power to go to the President whenever she wants. She has the pulse of conservatives and can alleviate any and all concerns any might have about Preibus shutting out conservatives. She is absolutely and thoroughly competent.

Bannon is going to Bannon and Preibus cannot stop him. So that will be another area of engagement for the President with non-establishmentarian voices.

Jared Kushner will make sure liberal policies are not ignored, but will also make sure his father-in-law is up to speed where it counts.

Before the President shakes up the management of his office, he ought to at least allow his Chief of Staff to manage it. He should also allow his Chief of Staff to deal with Mike Flynn. As we are seeing, despite Flynn’s claims to the contrary, he was fired as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for his disruptive and chaotic management style, not because he spoke truth to power. Flynn lying to Vice President Pence must be dealt with ruthlessly and forcefully.

NEW: Spicer on the Edge?

Is Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman and communications director–and, more famously these days, a comedic target of Melissa McCarthy–about to become Old Spicer?  Our friend Jim Acosta at CNN seems to think so:

The White House is ramping up its search for a new communications director in an effort to lighten the load of embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer, multiple sources told CNN.

Okay, this is CNN, so we need to take whatever they say with a grain of salt.  But they say they have multiple sources, so at least there’s that.

A source familiar with internal communications said President Donald Trump is disappointed in Spicer’s performance during the first two weeks of the administration.

Wait, a source?  I thought it was multiple sources.  Don’t bait and switch me here, Jim!

Spicer has served as both White House press secretary and communications director for the new administration. Those roles are typically filled by two staffers.

A man of many hats, it would seem.  With that much pressure on him, I can see how he can get a little cranky–especially when he’s also serving as the ringmaster of an increasingly wacky D.C. press corps.

The rest of the article is basically a tug-of-war between sources who claim that President Trump is just hunky-dory with Spicer’s work, and others who say that Trump is eyeing him the same way Darth Vader eyed Captain Needa right before “accepting” his apology for losing the Millenium Falcon.

Honestly, I don’t really know what to believe here, as none of the “sources” is willing to go on the record.  And given Trump’s penchant for trolling the press, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was yet another egg the president has planted for the media to get on their faces.  Just based on my own observations about Spicer’s performance, though, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t enjoying his job very much.  That’s understandable given the circumstances:  Spicer is, according to the article, mainly a Reince Priebus guy, and the relationship between the GOP establishment wing and the Trump wing is still uneasy.  And given Trump’s desire that his people should “look the part,” Acosta’s assertion that the president isn’t pleased with Spicer’s performance rings true to me.

So where does the White House go from here?  Well, if this really is an issue,  a good start would be to look at the source of the problem.  Sean Spicer, remember, is a GOP company man–and as such, he probably doesn’t “speak Trump” fluently.  That’s why, when he tries to get up in the grill of the fabulist media, he seems like he’s trying too hard.  His first instinct is to try and make nice with the press, like he was always taught to do.  Trying to imitate Trump’s combativeness only comes off as inauthentic.

You’ll recall that Mitt Romney had much the same problem in 2012.  As a moderate, he only “spoke conservative” as a second language, which made him go to great lengths to assure the base he really was one of them.  Of course, the base sensed that if Romney really was that conservative, there wouldn’t be any need for those assurances.  Similarly, if Sean Spicer truly got Trumpism, he’d be able to communicate that in a more natural way.

Who knows?  Maybe I’m wrong about this, and Spicer will eventually settle into the role nicely.  At the very least, I’d advise him to deploy lots of humor in his dealings with the press.  God knows, the press corps has become quite the running joke.  Might as well have a little fun at their expense.