So what’s the point of me writing this, at this length, about Sean Spicer’s performance today? Is what he said the end of the world and a signal that the Trump administration is a catastrophic failure? No. What happened today was a guy who speaks for the most powerful man in the world sucking at his job. This is important for myriad reasons, not the least of which is that American citizens and the American media need to be able to trust that the people who are in charge are good at their jobs. They need to trust the president’s judgment in the people he hires, and they need to trust the people he hires to be capable of doing their jobs effectively.
Sean Spicer’s job is to relay the thoughts and feelings of the president to the American people and media.
Today, Sean Spicer was very bad at his job.
Spicer said today that Russia should rethink its support for Assad because Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, and even Hitler never used chemical weapons during WWII. This was jaw-droppingly stupid. And factually incorrect. And an absolute shit show of a comparison. It was bizarre in that it was so devastatingly wrong on the points of factual merit, in addition to being a very strange point of comparison.
So let’s ignore facts for a second and figure out what Spicer’s point is. Is Assad worse than Hitler in some respect because of this? More objectionable? That’s what it means when you say “even [blank] didn’t do it.” Even this really bad guy didn’t do it, so this is worse. That’s how people use the English language. So, Assad is worse than Hitler?
Best case scenario… absolutely best case scenario you can make is that Assad is at least comparable to Hitler. Because even if you don’t want to say “worse than,” you’ve got to at the very least own that Assad is now comparable to Hitler.
So there’s that. He either meant to say that Assad is worse than Hitler, or he meant to say that Assad is comparable to Hitler, and that for one of these two reasons, Russia should not support Assad. Either way, we’ve pinned down what his point was.
Now we can deal with how Spicer ignored the fact that Hitler used chemical weapons to kill literally millions of people. I know the term “millions of people” can be used as hyperbole, but this is not hyperbole. Hitler used chemical weapons to kill MILLIONS of people. And it’s honestly even worse than that. He used chemical weapons with the stated desire to commit genocide against a religious group he deemed to be subhuman.
What Assad did is worse than Hitler? Assad is comparable to Hitler because Hitler never used chemical weapons and Assad did? Even though Hitler used chemical weapons in an attempted genocide?
What? This is not smart. This is not a smart thing to do.
So he was asked to clarify his remarks, and he did. Well, he tried to.
Here’s an honest to goodness attempt to transcribe what he said, “When you come to sarin gas, [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Ashad (sic) is doing… Clearly, [Hitler] brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that. In the way that Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent—into the middle of towns. It was brought. So, the use of it. I appreciate the clarification.”
I’m going to try to parse this and say that Spicer is saying that Assad’s actions are comparable to or worse than Hitler’s because Assad dropped chemical weapons onto his “his own” “innocent” people “in the middle of towns” whereas Hitler brought them to “Holocaust centers.”
Three problems here:
First, Holocaust centers? You mean concentration camps? What’s a Holocaust center?
The second is the use of the words “own people” and “innocent.” Hitler did it to his own people, and they were innocent in every bit the same way Assad’s victims are innocent. Using that as a point of contrast makes it seem like the Jews of the Holocaust were not Hitler’s people (many of them were German, making them Hitler’s people) and that they were not innocent. Is that what Spicer said? Not directly, but when you’re using points of contrast, and you say that Assad is different from Hitler because Assad is doing it to his own, innocent people, then your point of contrast directly implies that Hitler did NOT do it to his own, innocent people. Which he did. This is how points of contrast work. A person who speaks publicly for the President of the United States should understand this.
And the third: How is dropping chemical weapons into the middle of towns worse than or comparable to setting up a nationwide infrastructure that facilitated slave labor and genocide? Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that it’s not big deal to drop chemical bombs onto civilian populations. That is beyond wrong, and one could argue that it is so wrong that it merits a military intervention by US forces. It’s a world evil that should not be tolerated let alone supported by the Russians.
But comparable to Hitler? The guy who enslaved millions of Jews, forced them to make weapons for his army, and then murdered them or watched as they became living skeletons? The guy who made it a point of pride to exterminate a religious group he considered to be vermin?
Yes, Assad is a very bad man who is doing very bad things. But you just compared him to Hitler and totally forgot to mention the millions of Jews he killed the first time, and the second time, you made it seem like Jews were not innocent or Germans. That’s just beyond terrible. From a Press Secretary? It’s obscenely bad.
Realizing this, Spicer put out a third clarification of his remarks.
Here’s this word innocent again! Were the Jews not innocent? And please explain to everyone how dropping chemical weapons onto people is worse than or comparable to using chemical weapons to kill millions in a prolonged and dedicated attempt at genocide?
Someone must have realized again that what the Press Secretary said was unacceptable, so he sent out a fourth clarification.
He finally wised up and got rid of the word innocent, using “population centers” as a replacement.
But the other objections remain.
And it took him four tries to even get to this! The man is paid to communicate, and it took him four tries to put out a statement that still doesn’t make sense.
So, yes. Hitler never dropped chemical weapons from airplanes on “population centers.” This is true, and it is a difference between Assad and Hitler. Instead, Hitler created new population centers. Let’s call them “Holocaust centers,” if you will. He then moved millions of people to these Holocaust centers where he proceeded to kill millions of them with chemical weapons in a methodical attempt at genocide.
“But at least Hitler didn’t drop the chemical weapons from planes, right?” – Sean Spicer.
Helluva point, Spicey. Good work.