Sean Spicer made the Jews mad. In The Atlantic, which has become a fairly good barometer of liberal Jewish popular sentiment, David Graham has a piece titled “How Sean Spicer Flubbed the Holocaust on Passover”:
Spicer was fielding questions about the Trump administration’s confusing and diffuse strategy toward Syria when he was asked why the White House believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would break with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at this moment.
“You look, we didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said.
Clearly, Spicer meant on the battlefield, or chemical weapons being dropped on cities and the like. Even The Atlantic piece notes:
As puzzled reporters and other observers immediately noted, Spicer’s statement was deeply confusing, even if one could make a case it was accurate in very narrow terms. The Nazi government did not release chemical weapons on the battlefield during World War II. This may be the point Spicer was trying to make, as Defense Secretary James Mattis used a similar line later Tuesday afternoon.
No matter. Sean Spicer is clearly an anti-Semite and… worse… insensitive.
Seeming to realize his error, Spicer added, “[Hitler] brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that. But I was saying in the way that Assad used them, where he dropped them down to innoc—into the middle of towns, it was brought—so the use of it, I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent.”
That, too, was fraught. Aside from the strange use of “Holocaust centers,” Spicer’s abortive invocation of “innocence” was nonsensical as well. Following the briefing, Spicer issued a statement:
In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust, however, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.
Uh-oh again. Graham writes:
The problem here, as with all Hitler analogies, is that comparing anyone to history’s greatest villain feels as though it is a trump card when in fact it tends to undermine whatever argument it seeks to bolster. On the one hand, almost any comparison between the barbarity of a modern figure and Hitler will quickly fall apart. On the other, it always demands a single course of action, all-out war against the target, which paralyzes any debate.
The point here is not that Spicer is a Holocaust denier; his debacle today looked like the product of a series of errors, rather than ideology. The point is that he, and the Trump administration more broadly, are deeply sloppy in their messaging approach, and are as a result fall into grievous errors and then keep digging. And there is no greater danger for the improvising, combative speaker than foolishly invoking the Holocaust.
Rolling Stone has a piece titled “WTF Sean Spicer Just Said About Hitler During Passover”, while over at the Huffington Post, Julia Craven has a piece titled “A Second-By-Second Breakdown Of Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Comments”, the byline of which reads: “This really happened.”
You can’t make this stuff up.