In a fabulous interview Wednesday night with Jimmy Kimmel, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer received a fine grilling on that first and fateful day in the White House briefing room. It was Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration, and Spicer was famously ordered to deliver a hectoring to the assembled press corps. On the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowd. “That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period,” said Spicer.
PolitiFact rated that assertion “Pants on Fire.”
Did Spicer want to be out there talking about crowds? “There was a lot of us that wanted to be focused on his agenda, what he spoke about in his inaugural address,” Spicer said to Kimmel. Then the host got to the heart of the matter: “Even if you know the crowd wasn’t bigger, as press secretary you have to say that it was.”
Spicer more or less agreed with that assessment: “Look, your job as press secretary is to represent the president’s voice and to make sure that you are articulating what he believes his vision is on policy, on issues and other areas that he wants to articulate. Whether or not you agree or not isn’t your job. Your job is to give him advice, which is what we would do on a variety of issues all the time. He would always listen to that advice.”
Bolding added to highlight a perhaps subliminal admission on the part of Spicer: The president doesn’t actually have a vision, just something that he believes is his vision. But the point here is that the inaugural debacle wasn’t about vision or “the president’s voice” or agreeing/disagreeing with a policy plank. It was about the facts, and Spicer was wrong.
Later in the interview, Kimmel played a clip of Spicer telling ABC News’s Jonathan Karl, “We can disagree with the facts.”
“Can we, though?” asked Kimmel.
“I think the point is that you can look at an argument or set of facts and come out with one opinion. Someone else can say the facts are the same, I come out with a different conclusion. That’s what makes our country great.”
Kimmel simplified things with this example: “If I were to say to you, ‘I’m sitting on a horse right now.’ ”
Spicer: “Well, you’re not!”
Kimmel: “Right, exactly.” The crowd erupted.
See, Spicer can diagnose factual situations when he’s on the set of a late-night comic; he had much less success on that front when he was dealing with the president of the United States. Only time will tell how many professionals are willing to perform the necessary internal rationalizations required for this line of work.