July 25, 2017
One Spicey meatball: Bye bye, Sean, and don’t let the door hit you
by Ian Dreiblatt
Let me begin with a confession: I have, more than once, felt sympathy for Sean Spicer.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to defend Spicer, propose his rehabilitation as a figure of public life, or go on about human dignity. The boiling sulphur lakes of Venus could not produce so hot a take.
Still, Spicey’s is a sad story, so sad it’d be tragic if not for the viciousness with which he externalizes his inner catastrophe, directing it at the people—and the republic—around him. Faust sold his soul for knowledge and power, Homer Simpson for a donut. Spicer let his go for the dubious song of having silenced as much of political discourse as he could, playing a public role of absolute hostility to America’s already compromised norms of journalistic freedom.
Remember that first press conference? Twenty-four hours after Donald Trump’s swearing in, the Spicemeister, with a look on his face like he was trying to tie a knot in a cherry stem using only his anus, gave the press a series of talking points so transparently false that they immediately catapulted America into a technicolor surreality of pure, cartoon incoherence. That was how we first got to know him: standing there, terror in his eyes, smooshed into a suit that bore no discernible relation to his physical form, haranguing reporters for small mistakes and mendaciously insisting on the grandeur of Trump’s inauguration crowd — handling for Trump the kind of stuff Stalin was too busy to worry about.
And then he said this dastardly bullshit:
There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable as well.
Nothing could be more hostile to the spirit of the Constitution. The document on which our country was founded is clear that the press is never accountable to the government — a principle so important to the framers that, when they realized they’d left it out of their final version, they doubled back and immediately added language to make it explicit. And while there’s plenty to argue with the Constitution about—and it has a severely mixed track record—its dictates should be serious fucking business for a president whom it catapulted to office, despite a three-milllion-vote deficit, on the strength of a few technicalities.
Spicer, of course, was just getting started. Over the coming months, he would continue to lace our reality with a steady supply of confusion and meanness, as he defended the continual jolt of horror from beyond the infinite that is the Trump agenda.
Like… remember when the president tweeted that James Comey, the FBI director he’d just fired, “better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations” (ps there weren’t lol)? Spicer—whose whole job is to explain the president’s actions to the press—declared, “The tweet speaks for itself, I’m moving on.” Which was really funny, because the question at hand was whether the president had been trying to blackmail a high-ranking, recently-fired law enforcement officer of the federal government! I just love jokes like that.
And remember when that same incident prompted the most sublime editorial correction in the history of print media? Take a deep breath, and let us say together:
More telling was when, during Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates freedom, Spicer condemned a chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad by unfavorably comparing him to “Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Asked to clarify, Spicer said, “He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing… he brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that.”
Let it be noted that referring to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers” is an unusual slip. But marshaling investor-friendly Corporate Speak to endorse an agenda at once incoherent, impractical, petty, and destructive has been one of Spicer’s key duties. Referring to the Jews of Germany as “not Hitler’s own people” in effect recapitulated Nazi ideology — something no other White Houses, not even the really anti-semitic ones, have ever done. Spicer did apologize in this instance, and copiously, but the point is that he had already, after three months on the job, become so calloused to decency and truth that he would say fucking anything. He would quite literally stand in the White House repeating sanitized versions of Nazi talking points without even realizing it.
And now, as of a few days ago, Sean Spicer has announced he’ll be leaving his post next month. Just when we were all getting comfortable around each other.
This is, of course, the long-anticipated capstone to Spice-a-doodle’s unusually public humiliations. Reportedly once the proud owner of “a great sense of humor and an easy laugh,” he’s become maybe the second-most mocked person on earth. When the whole team went to meet the pope, Spicey, a Catholic, wasn’t invited. And now, while he can always do Dancing With the Stars and there are definitely publishing houses that’ll put out his memoirs, his seriousness as a human being is thoroughly spent.
Who knows, maybe Sean Spicer believes history will vindicate him. Maybe he’s got game for miles and this is all just Phase One of the transformation of America into Great Spicylvania. Maybe he’s always hated politics and dreams of becoming a small-town volleyball coach. We can hope, at the least, that a little bit of long-overdue Sean Time will double as an opportunity to think about what he’s done.
As for the rest of America, we may as well prepare ourselves for a prolonged period of “Scaramouche Scaramouche” jokes, in addition to more of the absolutely unspportable doublethink to which we have become accustomed.
So long, Sean Spicer. Take care. This has all been—how to say it?—one spicy meatball.
Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.