The president's press secretary is either the stupidest person to ever hold a senior position in the White House or he's an outright anti-Semite. This is not a partisan issue. He is an embarrassment not just to the administration but also to our nation — Republicans, Democrats, Jews, Christians, Muslims and all thinking people.
In case you have been overwhelmed by news of all the other missteps and mistakes of the fumbling, bumbling Trump administration, the press secretary took the occasion of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating our release from slavery, to deny the Holocaust.
Like French candidate Marine Le Pen, who denied that there was an organized roundup of Jews in France in 1942 (which generated a detailed response from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum utterly refuting this dangerous fiction), stupid Spicer shocked even his own aides by denouncing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as worse than Hitler because Hitler — according to Spicer — did not use chemical weapons on his own people.
Hitler killed with gas. Gas is a chemical weapon.
I learned in first grade that Hitler systematically exterminated 6 million Jews using gas chambers, in the worst instance of racial genocide in the history of the world. My Hebrew schoolteacher, Mr. Sherf, had a number on his arm. He showed us the drawings and poetry of the children murdered at the Terezin concentration camp, captured in the book "I Never Saw Another Butterfly." I still remember this famous verse:
"He doesn't know the world at all/ Who stays in his nest and doesn't go out./ He doesn't know what birds know best/ Nor what I want to sing about,/ That the world is full of loveliness."
Donald Trump's White House is not full of loveliness.
Assad is a very bad man. That's a given. But Hitler is in a league of his own. I shiver every time Hitler is used as a derogatory description of more minor-league murderers. There is literally no comparison — horrible as Rwanda was, horrible as Syria is, horrible as all ethnic cleansing around the world has been — to the racist hell of Hitler.
How can a man who serves as the president's spokesman — his voice to the country and the world — be so ignorant and hateful?
And how can a president allow him to continue to be his mouthpiece?
No apology is sufficient for allowing a Holocaust denier and anti-Semitic fool to ever again speak for the president.
It is probably not a coincidence that a civil war is reportedly brewing inside the White House between the extremists who count white supremacists among their constituency and the president's respected (and more moderate) daughter and son-in-law, who are practicing Orthodox Jews. Apparently it was not enough that Jared Kushner was attacked for the sin of being a Democrat, if he is one — but he is definitely a Jew, and a committed one, as is his family. Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism, working with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi before her marriage. The president is the "zayde" (grandfather) of their Orthodox Jewish children. And this time, it was not the animosity the far right's animosity toward Democrats but its ugliness and apparent hatred of Jews that shone through.
Trump cannot be silent. He cannot allow this man to speak for him without himself being held responsible for the hatred and ignorance of this stupid anti-Semite.
When I served as a Clinton appointee to the council of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum, it took only a brief look around the room to realize that the generation of Holocaust survivors was dying, one by one, leaving a vacuum for hateful deniers such as Spicer to fill.
Calling Spicer stupid is, in the end, way too generous. No one reaches the position of White House press secretary by being stupid. Spicer is worse than stupid. He is misleading a generation of people who have never met a Holocaust survivor and are vulnerable to the heresies spread by deniers.
Reasonable people can disagree on many issues; many issues have two legitimate sides. But not Hitler. Not the Holocaust. What Spicer said disqualifies him from the podium he speaks from every day, the lectern with the seal of the president.
If Trump does not want to be branded a hater and a denier himself, he must fire Spicer. Reasonable people cannot disagree on that.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
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