Though it seems like ages ago, Sean Spicer was very recently the White House Press Secretary.
During his brief tenure, he reduced his office to a new low of dishonesty and ignorance, between blatantly lying about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd and claiming that Hitler did not use chemical weapons.
In the midst of every other civic norm being trashed by the Trump administration, it is easy to forget Spicer, but he did tremendous damage to the entire White House as an institution, and to the credibility with which the executive branch communicates with reporters.
But some of the damage he did was subtler and during an S. E. Cupp interview on HLN, former Obama adviser Van Jones highlighted for Spicer one of the biggest problems he caused for America.
JONES: As a parent, one of the scariest things during the early part of the Trump years was to see somebody who we had confidence in come out and say stuff that we knew wasn’t true. And you’re watching young people my children watching, saying, “But Daddy, that’s not true. But Daddy, that’s not true.” Did you
SPICER: Hold on. Did you get offended when the Obama administration officials went out and blamed Benghazi on a video? Was that equally offensive to you?
JONES: I’ll tell you something. You can say “Benghazi, Benghazi!” You guys can say “Health care, health care!” But
SPICER: No, I’m just asking you the same question!
JONES: but I didn’t have the opportunity that you had. I was in the lowerarchy in the Obama White House. You were in the hierarchy in the Trump White House. And you were the face of our government and our president, and you came out and you said stuff that, as a parent, was very hard to explain.
Jones is right. Spicer’s words left their mark on American children who saw him on TV. Either they believed him, and had their sense of reality warped beyond reasonable recognition, or else they did not believe him, and learned in their formative years to anticipate that White House officials are liars who cannot be trusted. Neither scenario bodes well for future generations of Americans who will at some point wish to interact with their government.
As Jones pointed out, Spicer had an opportunity few people ever enjoy in the United States, because he was its face. He could step up to a podium and tell the world, in his own words, why Donald Trump does what he does. In his efforts to propagandize a walking disaster, he brought ultimate disgrace upon his institution.
And the full extent of what he did, he is unlikely ever to appreciate.