In that long long first press conference of Spicer, most of the attention went to the crowd count question. But embedded in all the verbiage was a far more interesting sequence, almost a monologue by Spicer in which he does something rather unusual for a press secretary: speaks from the heart.
Or seemingly from the heart.
You might say, “So what?” But I urge you to read it anyway; I found it fascinating and quite unusual. I think Spicer was appealing to his fellow Washington hands in the communication business, some of whom I assume he may have known for years, and letting them know—this time in a fairly gentle way, as opposed to his initial statements the day after the inauguration—what it feels like to be in the position he’s in. Or even the position Donald Trump is in [emphasis mine]:
QUESTION: But — but in terms of the crowd size issue…why did you come out Saturday afternoon to talk about that?…
SPICER:…it’s not — it’s not just about a crowd size. It’s about this constant — you know, [Trump’s] not going to run. Then if he runs, he’s going to drop out. Then if he runs, he can’t win, there’s no way he can win Pennsylvania, there’s no way he can win Michigan.
SPICER: Then, if won, it’s oh, well he(ph) — there is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has. And I think that it’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win.
QUESTION: And — and if I may —
SPICER: Hold on — because I — I think it’s important. He’s gone out there and defied the odds over and over and over again. And he keeps getting told what he can’t do by this narrative that’s out there. And he exceeds it every single time. And I think there’s an overall frustration when you — when you turn on the television over and over again and get told that there’s this narrative that you didn’t win. You weren’t going to run. You can’t pick up this state.
That’s not — you know, that’s a fool’s errand to go to Pennsylvania. Why is he in Michigan? How silly, they’ll never vote for him. A Republican hasn’t won that state since ’88. And then he goes and he does it and then what’s the next narrative? Well, it must have been because of this. He didn’t win that. And then people aren’t attending anything or John Lewis is the first person to skip his inauguration. Not true.
And over and over again, the MLK bust. I think over and over again there’s this constant attempt to undermine his credibility and the movement that he represents. And it’s frustrating for not just him, but I think so many of us that are trying to work to get this message out. And so I mentioned this to John, part of this is a two- way street. We want to have a healthy dialogue, not just with you but the American people because he’s fighting for jobs, he’s fighting to make this country safer.
But when you’re constantly getting told that can’t be true, we doubt that you can do this, this won’t happen, and that’s the narrative when you turn on television every single day, it’s a little frustrating.
And I think that for those people around him, his senior team especially, but so many of the other folks that are either here in the administration, that gave up their time during the transition, they left a job to work for three or four weeks because they are so committed to having his nominees get through, it’s a little demoralizing to turn on the TV day after day and hear, can’t do this, this guy’s not going to get confirmed, not way they’re going to go through.
QUESTION: But isn’t that just part of the conversation that happens in Washington…
SPICER: No, it’s not. I think…
QUESTION: … in D.C., that comes from being president of the United States and working at the White House?
SPICER: No. No, look, I’ve been doing this a long time, you’ve been doing this too. I’ve never seen it like this, Jim, I’ve never — and again, I’m not looking to go back and forth, but you’re asking for an explanation.
And I think that it’s important to understand, that whether it’s the president himself, the vice president, the senior team, the volunteers or the people who are out there just in America that voted for him or walked the streets or put up a sign, that to constantly be told no, no, no and watch him go yes, yes, yes every time and to come up to the next hurdle and see someone put a block up gets a little frustrating.
And I think that we are — and so, you see this historic thing. And he stands there at the Capitol and I was not that close but, you know, on the platform, and you look out and all your — it’s an amazing view. And it’s just so many people who got in long lines, who had to go around all this different stuff to get in. And that was for the first time that we did have to go through fencing that far out.
And then to hear, “Well, look at this shot,” and it’s not — “It wasn’t that big.” It’s a little demoralizing because when you’re sitting there and you’re looking out and you’re in awe of just how awesome that view is and how many people are there and you go back and you turn on the television and you see shots of comparing this and that. And then you look at the stuff that’s happening.
The nominees to get put out (ph), the Democrats stopping — there are two Cabinet officials, ladies and gentleman, that are taking their office today. He visited the CIA and a director that was considered a consensus candidate wasn’t approved. Where’s the story? And I think that — so it…
QUESTION: Isn’t it a fair criticism that you’ve got bigger fish to fry? Why worry about a couple of tweets about crowd size?
SPICER: Because it’s not — because that’s what I’m saying, you’re minimizing the point here, Jim. It’s not about one Tweet. It’s not about one picture. It’s about a constant theme. It’s about sitting here every time and being told no. “Well, we don’t think he can do that, he’ll never accomplish that, he can’t win that, it won’t be the biggest, it’s not gonna be that good. The crowds aren’t that big, he’s not that successful.”
The narrative — and the default narrative is always negative and it’s demoralizing. And I think that when you sit here and you realize the sacrifice the guy made, leaving a very, very successful business because he really cares about this country and he wants — despite your partisan differences, he cares about making this country better for everybody. He wants to make it safer for everybody. And so when you wake up everyday and that’s what you’re seeing over and over again and you’re not seeing stories about the Cabinet folks that he’s appointing or the success that he’s having trying to keep American jobs here. Yes, it is a little disappointing.
So, I just — it’s — you know…
QUESTION: It’s not always going to be positive.
SPICER: No, it’s not, and sometimes we’ll make mistakes. I promise you that. But it’s not always got to be negative, Jim. Some days, we do do the right thing. Some days we are successful. So it’s not — part of us is saying, when we’re right, say we’re right. When we’re wrong, say we’re wrong. But it’s not always wrong and negative. There are things — there’s a lot of things that he’s done already, a lot of amazing people that he’s appointed, a lot of success that he’s having.
And it would be once — nice once in a while for someone just to say — report it straight up, he appointed this person, here’s their background. Not why they’re not gonna get nominated, not why it’s not gonna happen.
QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.
I can’t recall hearing anything quite like that from a press secretary before. Or even remotely like it. It’s a cri de coeur—a pretty long one, too. I excerpted a good deal of it because I think that its length was part of the strength of its impact—at least on me.
I wouldn’t count on its changing anything with the press corps. In fact, I don’t really think it will. But it certainly humanizes him—and, by implication, Trump.