Sean Spicer's faux pas: a little historical context, please

First of all, one can hardly call Sean Spicer the most effective White House Press Secretary: he lacks the one quality a spokesman for the President needs; namely, he is not articulate.  He bumbles and stumbles over his words to an extent I have not witnessed by previous press secretaries, who have been nothing if not slick and slippery in their repartee with journalists.  To give a concrete example, Spicer pronounces “nuclear” as “nucuIar” á la George W. Bush.  I sense that he is fluent in certain matters, such as the economy perhaps; but otherwise, he is an ill-fated choice for the job, a bad omen of sorts in the young Trump administration which is itself a mix of successes and confounding missteps.

That said, we should give Spicer some credit for referring to a relatively overlooked fact of World War II history —  that Hitler declined to use chemical weapons (in the context of warfare, to be very clear!).  Spicer doubtless thought that he had a sure winner with the media and political class: comparing anyone to Hitler is surely the ultimate insult in today’s intellectual and political climate. He probably didn’t think this one through very well, but what he was probably thinking was that World War II did not see poison gas being used in battle between armies as it was in the trench warfare of World War I. This clearly was an argumentum ad Hitlerum  that went terribly wrong.

Spicer made this point in trying to underline the dastardliness of…

Read more