Oh, for fark’s sake. Just because the executive branch’s PR guy needlessly Godwins an indictment of Bashar Assad, refers to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers,” and then has to clarify his point four times while still not getting it quite right, does that mean he can’t do his job effectively?
If Trump cans him, we’re going to end up with Alex Jones as press secretary. And we probably deserve him, let’s face it.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement on White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s statements regarding the Holocaust:
“While Jewish families across America celebrate Passover, the chief spokesman of this White House is downplaying the horror of the Holocaust.
“Sean Spicer must be fired, and the President must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements. Either he is speaking for the President, or the President should have known better than to hire him.”
WaPo reporter Karen Tumulty calls Pelosi’s press release “Job security for Spicer,” knowing how Trump is likely to react to it. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect went even further than Pelosi and accused Spicer of “Holocaust denial,” a preposterous slur and distortion of his point. Here’s what he should have said and maybe was trying to say, translated from Spicer-ese into intelligible English by James Mattis:
— Michael Graham (@IAMMGraham) April 11, 2017
The last bit about America’s “own vital interest” being implicated every time the “red line” is violated is debatable, but there’s no argument that the international taboo against WMD is a good thing. If — if — punching an Assad in the face now and then helps keep that taboo in place, maybe it’s worth doing. That was Spicer’s underlying point in his word salad earlier this afternoon about Hitler using chemical weapons: Even during World War II, the most barbaric of wars, the battlefield taboo against WMD held. Where he went wrong was in implying that it was moral scruples, not logistical reasons, that led the Nazi command to keep that taboo in place. (Not even Hitler gassed people out in the open like Assad does!) He had good intentions in his own weird way in framing the point that way, using a dramatic contrast to underscore how monstrous Assad is by historic norms of war, but citing the Nazis as an example of comparative restraint was … unfortunate. He could have said what he wanted to say without the reductio ad hitlerum, as Mattis did.
And not only was it foolish morally, it was foolish strategically. “White House saying that Assad did something worse than Hitler seems like an argument to remove him by force, not plead with Putin,” tweeted Putin nemesis Garry Kasparov. Yeah, if Assad is worse than Hitler, why would we ever consider letting Syrians keep him as their leader, as Rex Tillerson has suggested repeatedly this week? Why isn’t he marked for death to show the world’s would-be WMD-users that we’re serious about the taboo? For that matter, liberals are asking how Spicer’s comparison jibes with Trump’s refugee policy. If Assad is demonstrating a degree of viciousness towards civilian populations that not even Hitler contemplated, or so Spicer suggested, shouldn’t you want to get some of those civilians out of harm’s way by bringing them to the U.S. and Europe?
Joining the chorus of outrage at Spicer this afternoon, by the way, is future press secretary Alex Jones, who I assume is honked off because he fears Spicer’s “worse than Hitler” blather will build public support for further confrontation with Assad and Putin, which is exactly what it was designed to do. Exit question: Remember the time Trump all but shrugged at the idea of Saddam Hussein “throwing a little gas” at the Kurds 30 years ago? How did we go from that degree of indifference to Trump last week publicly mourning the little children gassed by Assad in less than a year?
WATCH: Alex Jones re Spicer "What the hell is that from Sean Spicer? Was he being sarcastic? It shows how historically ignorant his crew is" pic.twitter.com/z7qW1paIel
— Yashar (@yashar) April 11, 2017
Update: Man, that’s a quick apology from an administration that doesn’t like to apologize. Smart of him to get it off the table, though.
Sean Spicer: I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, there is no comparison https://t.co/Jgc1ccgMeK
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) April 11, 2017