Sean Spicer’s accidental denial of the Holocaust yesterday has caused outrage. From every corner—organizations, politicians, and pundits—people are calling for him to either resign or be fired. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect issued a statement saying Spicer should be fired. So did several Democratic members of the House, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi:
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.
Even good ol’ Charlie Pierce thinks Spicer has to go:
Fire the man. Or let him resign. I don’t care. But do it now.
Do it for reasons that are nothing short of humane. He’s overmatched out there, by his job, by the sheer venality and incompetence of the president* he serves, and by the English language. Fire Sean Spicer. Do it now, for his own good, before he says something that causes some group to storm the Press Briefing Room and light him on fire.
And while all that’s happening, there’s a faction on the left that believes Spicer ought to stay. The reasoning goes that Spicer is so perfectly inept at doing his job that he accurately reflects the incompetence and obvious deceitfulness of the president and administration he speaks for. Replacing him might mean that a slicker, more cunning spokesperson would take over, someone who is better at obfuscating the truth than the bumbling Spicer.
I don’t know how I feel about this. I do think it’s over the top for people like Pelosi to get as hyperbolic as they do—as I noted in my piece earlier today, there’s an inordinate and frankly frightening amount of anti-Semitism in the White House, but I don’t believe that Spicer’s gaffe was a Freudian slip. He said what he said because he’s an idiot; a malicious, lying idiot, even. But an intentionally anti-Semitic idiot? I don’t believe so.
Were this a normal world and a normal administration, there’s no question that a debacle like this would end Spicer’s career. But this world isn’t so normal, and neither is this administration. Donald Trump won’t fire Spicer because he’s in any way offended by what Spicer said, but rather because Spicer, being the spokesman for Trump, is making Trump look bad. To top it all off, Spicer apologized, something Trump never does and views as a sign of weakness.
Morally, yes: Spicer should be removed. Strategically, no: Spicer is in no way talented enough to provide cover for the Trump administration’s chaotic behavior, and as a result is valuable to the public insofar as he inadvertently exposes Trump for the charlatan he is.
If Spicer doesn’t resign right now or isn’t fired, the only time in the near future he’ll get dumped is after Trump’s first 100 days in office, which will be April 29th. As it becomes increasingly unlikely that Trump and his Republican congress will get anything done by the symbolic 100th day, a shake-up in staff is likely. It’d be a good way to get rid of Spicer without making it seem like this was the catalyst that led to the decision.