There are some things you can’t do if your job is talking to the press, especially if your audience and the surrounding real estate are filled with hostiles. For starters, you can’t talk about Hitler. It’s like trying to explain away the “N” word. No matter what you say, you are going to get into trouble. Sean Spicer walks across a minefield every day, so I’m sure he knows this. If not, he gets it now.
I’m going to take a contrarian position on this week’s national furor over Spicer and the United Airlines incident. The airline and Trump’s embattled press secretary deserve a break. Our hyperreactive national idiocy jumps at any chance to ensnare and condemn. The slightest infraction can ruin a career or a business. We are far too happy to sit back and enjoy the drama without looking at the big picture.
Sean Spicer and United: two victims claimed in one week
I never thought I would be drawing comparisons between a White House press secretary and an airline, but here we are. Both Spicer and United committed gaffes. Spicer’s was verbal. United’s was, well, you’ve seen the video. Trump’s press secretary is in boiling hot water because he is being held to standards that we would consider unfair and unacceptable if they were applied to us.
United is another situation altogether, one we might compare to the condemnation of police offers in the fading days of the Obama administration. Attempts to turn one unwarranted incident into a problem endemic to the carrier and industry are undeserved. Sure, flying is an unpleasant experience, but it’s pretty rare that someone walks away bloodied.
That doesn’t mean Capitol Hill won’t benefit.
Spicer becomes a Holocaust denier because we want him to be?
It’s easy to understand how Spicer tripped himself up. Granted, mentioning Hitler was begging for trouble but only a serious Trump administration hater would believe that the press secretary’s words were reflective of deeply held anti-Semitic beliefs.
Elected officials should find something more valuable to do than spin words and deeds into something they are not. Americans should make better use of their time than listening to them.
A Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz press release tried to frame the Trump administration as Holocaust deniers:
It’s stunning and unbelievable that this basic fact eludes the White House, and worse, that these latest comments fall within a troubling pattern of Holocaust apathy and denial by the Trump Administration.1
That seems a bit extreme, but remarks from Colorado’s Rep. Jared Polis were not much different and focused on Spicer:
As a member of the Jewish community, I am hurt every time our history is denied, and as an American and human being, I am appalled by Sean Spicer’s recent assertion that Hitler did not use chemical weapons. It is a fact that the Nazis used lethal gas to murder millions of Jews and other minorities.2
As an American, I am stunned and appalled that politicians insist that this kind of rhetoric should be part of our national dialogue. These kinds of remarks serve no good purpose. They simply vent more Democratic outrage that one of their own is not in power. In any other venue they would be as unacceptable as Spicer’s comments. Of course, no press secretary can say that. Instead, Spicer will have to eat his words again and again and hopefully do better next time.
He deserves a break, but he’s not going to get one.
United is an enormous airline. It flies lots of passengers.
Only a handful of Americans with big opinions on the United melee really saw what happened. We drew conclusions based on what we were told to believe about a video clip. The media and activists helped, including immigration protesters at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport seeking to twist the situation to their own ends. This is an unusual incident being spun into a fundamental problem. If it happened all the time, why would anyone buy a ticket?
Congressional lawmakers stoked the fire. Washington D.C.’s Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton issued a release requesting a formal hearing.2 Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky was “absolutely appalled” over the use of “extreme force.”3 Press release after press release vented shock and outrage as the rush to be the first in line to condemn United went full bore.
We are supposed to be a color blind nation, but this passenger became a minority in the hands of immigration activists and the House Asian Pacific American Caucus:
In this instance, the mistreatment of an Asian American passenger in order to accommodate United’s employees resulted in serious physical injury and an appalling abuse of rights.5
Would the incident have been more or less extreme had the passenger been African American, White, or Hispanic?
Spicer and United take a hit they shouldn’t
I felt bad for Mr. Spicer and for United CEO Munoz and the airline’s employees. They ran afoul of our insistence on turning every misstep into a national political crisis.
Spicer misspoke in a venue that would send most of those pointing fingers screaming for the exit. What occurred on that jet should never happen, but it was one incident. Now we can expect a daily flood of news reports of alleged abusive airline behavior. We went through the same thing with the politicized accusations of police misconduct. Then we grew bored and moved on to something else.
These opportunities for a feeding frenzy don’t come along every day. Two at a time are a bountiful feast, but that’s how our national idiocy plays out. We have short attention spans. Spicer and United will soon be forgotten. Americans will sink their fangs into the next victim.
1. “Wasserman Schultz on White House Spokesman Spicer’s Comments.” Debbie Wasserman Schultz. April 11, 2017. https://wassermanschultz.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=25&itemid=1407, retrieved April 12, 2017.
2. “Polis statement on White House’s comments regarding Holocaust.” Jared Polis. April 11, 2017. http://polis.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398336, retrieved April 12, 2017.
3. “Norton Wants Hearing on Abusive Removal of United Airlines Passenger from Flight.” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. April 10, 2017. https://norton.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/norton-wants-hearing-on-abusive-removal-of-united-airlines-passenger, retrieved April 12, 2017.
4. “Schakowsky statement on United Airlines passenger forcibly removed from flight out of Chicago.” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. April 10, 2017. https://schakowsky.house.gov/press-releases/schakowsky-statement-on-united-airlines-passenger-forcibly-removed-from-flight-out-of-
chicago/, retrieved April 12, 2017.
5. “CAPAC Chair Calls for Answers Rgarding Removal of Asian American Passenger from United Airlines Flight.” Congressional Asian American Pacific Caucus. April 12, 2017. http://capac-chu.house.gov/press-release/capac-chair-calls-answers-regarding-removal-asian-american-passenger-united-airlines, retrieved April 13, 2017.