So You’re Sean Spicer …

It’s easy to lampoon Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s press secretary. He does it himself every day.

But what would you do?

Your boss tells you that you need to go out and spank the media, be tough like he is, and tell them that the crowd at your inauguration was the biggest ever. Period. It’s your first day on the job. It’s a job you really like and want to keep. So you give the president your advice, that saying this about the crowd will make all of you look foolish. The president asks you “Whose side are you on?” If you won’t go out there and straighten the press out he’ll find someone who will. Trump’s decision is made, and you have your marching orders.

So what do you do? Easy to say, those of us who don’t have such cool apex-predator jobs, that we’d resign rather than say something we know is not true. But would we? Would you? You make your case, you lose, the boss tells you what to do. He’s the boss.

What about something not so black and white. The message to be delivered today as the House tinkers with the Trumpcare bill is that, by removing the requirements in Obamacare that 10 essential benefits be covered, consumers will have more choice and their coverage will cost less. The essential benefits are things like prenatal care, mental health and substance abuse care, therapy and devices to help recovery after injuries or for chronic conditions, prescription drug coverage and six more. An older man, say, could chose a plan that doesn’t cover prenatal care. Sounds good, right?

But by letting people pick and choose, costs will go up for the people who do need things like prenatal care. And, if the costs get too high and a mother doesn’t get prenatal care, guess who pays for the ensuing problems her child has once born? Everybody pays, especially when care is sought through emergency rooms by people who can’t afford the coverage after it’s been cherry-picked.

So, what you’re telling people — that choice is good for everybody — simply isn’t true. At least that’s a reasonable argument. But your job is not to present both sides of a case. It’s to support the case you’re advocating for. If you’re selling soda-pop, it’s not your job to point out that a 12-ounce can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. But it’s probably also not your job to say that soda-pop is healthy.

Spicer today eagerly and strongly asserted that doing away with the requirement that health plans cover these 10 essential services is better for health-care consumers. If you were told to say that, what would you do?

My easy answer #2 is that I wouldn’t work for someone in the first place who has shown his entire career that he sides with the rich and doesn’t give a damn about the little guy, whom he has consistently stiffed. I wouldn’t work for someone in the first place whose values are based on selfishness — I’ve got mine and you’re on your own to get yours, even when mine is crowding out yours.

But Spicer wanted this job. He’s not just some guy who came out of Trump University with a bubble-gum-card diploma. He has a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He’s worked in communication for Congress and for the Republican Party. He’s not a rube or a dupe. I don’t think.

So … the president tells you to go out and say, for example, that Paul Manafort played “a limited role for a very limited time” in the Trump campaign. That’s nonsense, of course, for a man who was campaign chairman.

What do you do? Chime in here, let us know your thoughts.

— Bruce Benidt




12 thoughts on “So You’re Sean Spicer …

  1. pm1956 says:

    Soooooo……..lets be all transactional about this. What is the upside? If you prostitute your morals for the Pres, where can you go? Do you get a life sinecure at Trump Co. ? Or do you become unemployable (because you no longer have any integrity to speak of)?

    Obviously, Roy Cohn did OK after McCarthy. Ron Ziegler? This is from Wikipedia:

    “In 1988, Ziegler became president and chief executive of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, living in Alexandria, Virginia.[1] He previously served as President of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.[6] He was described by leading truck stop advocate William Fay as “a significant factor in expanding the travel plaza and truckstop industry’s presence in the nation’s capital.” Hay further credited Ziegler as having achieved “great strides in membership recruitment and expansion of member services.” [7]

    Ziegler moved to Coronado Shores in Coronado, California, where he died of a heart attack at the age of 63.[8][1]” (

    So I suppose that if you do what the President wants you to do, you will be taken care of (if being the President of a well paid if largely unknown trade association is OK by you).

    I suppose in some way it all comes down to whether or not you are a true believer in your boss. Is this just a job, or is it some form of crusading role to Make America Great Again?

    If it is just a job, jump ship and pretend to take the moral high road (and tell everyone that there is no there there).

    If you are a Trump True Believer, you go down with the ship, and assume that you will be taken care of (like all who are true to the end).

    I, of course, am a cynic, so I’d jump ship for any better offer. But that is just me.

    1. christopher j werle says:

      There will always be positions for former administration members who remain true, whether they believed in it or not. You can pretty much go down the list of major donors and find landing sites. And that’s not even considering the places that would want you for access and contacts.

    2. pm: Do you remember when Ron Ziegler had to go before the White House press corps and tell them that what President Nixon had previously told them about Watergate was now “inoperative”? Classic.
      I beg you to read this quick look back by the New York Times (below):

      QUOTE “Mr. Ziegler dismissed the 1972 break-in at Democratic national headquarters as a ”third-rate burglary” and attacked The Washington Post’s coverage of the case as ”shabby journalism” and ”character assassination.”

      But on April 17, 1973, Nixon stunned reporters by saying that he had conducted an investigation that raised the prospect of involvement by White House officials.

      Mr. Ziegler told a puzzled press corps that this was now the ”operative statement,” repeating the word operative six times. Finally, R. W. Apple Jr. of The New York Times asked, ”Would it be fair for us to infer, since what the president said today is now considered the operative statement, to quote you, that the other statement is no longer operative, that it is now inoperative?”

      Eventually Mr. Ziegler replied: ”The president refers to the fact that there is new material; therefore, this is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.” END QUOTE

  2. I’m not sure if Spicer is a True Trump Believer. I think he’s more the worst kind of DC leech, a marginally talented bureaucrat who just wants access to power and see his name in the media. He’s finally achieved that by doing whatever he needed to do to climb the ladder, and he’s going to hang onto it by doing whatever he needs to do.

  3. Dennis Lang says:

    I’m with BB on this. Spicer wanted the gig but he has time after time sold the last shred of his integrity to perform it, without reservation in propagating the most obvious falsehoods for all of us to hear.
    There’s a line in “The Verdict”. The nurse is testifying against the eminently credentialed anesthetist who falsified a medical report to save his career after his procedure turned a patient into a vegetable: “Who are these people?”
    There is no shame in the White House.

  4. Kathleen Janasz says:

    I’d like to offer a different question, triggered by Dennis Lang’s comment. Rather than “What do you do?” consider “Who are you?” If who you are matters, it really isn’t that difficult to navigate this situation….

  5. wdewey2017 says:

    Maybe Spicer has caught what Trump and others around him have — something like mad cow disease that makes them believe that if they say it, it must be true.

  6. Dennis Lang says:

    Hah! The “mad cow” phenomena may be more accurate than we think. Sean Spicer is clearly a marionette (and I admit sometimes I actually feel sorry for him. He tries so hard). But intriguing are those studies that indicate in the wake of literally millions of fake news sites during the campaign it was in fact the most absurd–and unbelievable– of the claims that seemed to gain the most traction, becoming “believable” through constant repetition, generating the most retreats.

  7. Bruce, you took my first answer, I would never work for Trump in the first place for all the same reasons as you and others have mentioned. I like Kathleen’s thought to question “Who are you?” – good truth. I felt a bit sorry for Spicer at first but he’s still there, so not really any more.

  8. Dennis Lang says:

    And for the next subject of TSRC character analysis: of course, Devin Nunes.
    By all accounts. from those who worked with him. a guy with his moral compass pointed in the right direction.
    What seems painfully clear, in the wake of the Comey revelations the WH leans on him–Sally Yates has too much to say–and he buckles. No reservations about destroying the integrity of his own committee.
    Is it easy for him to look in the mirror and explain his behavior to loved ones? “Well honey I had to do it.”
    “But Devin, it’s the WH that’s being investigated!”

    i understand even his local CA newspaper has blasted him.

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