White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has left the building—resigning from his diminished position as a broken man, a subject of ridicule and derision, a political careerist without a shred of dignity left.
There may be commentators who try to find a measure of redemption for Spicer in the fact that his is one of the first genuinely newsworthy resignations from a Trump administration that will see many resignations before it is done. A lot will be made, to be sure, of the reports that Spicer’s was not a soft exit; he resigned immediately following the president’s selection of a fierce loyalist, Republican donor Anthony Scaramucci, as his new communications director. The word is that the outgoing press secretary told Trump that the new hire was a major mistake for the administration.
It’s nice that Spicer finally objected. But no one can or should imagine that this objection, or this resignation, clears Spicer. It is way too late for that.
The time for Spicer to resign was before he became an out-of-control president’s paid perjurer. During his turbulent six months in Trump’s service, Spicer turned what was once the reasonably respectable position of White House press secretary—a post held by Pierre Salinger, George Reedy, Bill Moyers, and James Brady—into a joke. Or, to be more precise, a stream of jokes. Spicer made himself and his position a punchline for late-night comics and fodder for the funniest Saturday Night Live routine of the Trump era.
Press secretaries have been irresponsible in the past. The position is a politicized one. No one denies that some of Spicer’s predecessors failed themselves and their country. But Spicer’s failure has been so epic in scope, so overwhelming in character (or lack thereof), that his name is now synonymous with prevarication.
Spicer, an experienced political communicator who arrived at the White House with some semblance of a reputation in Washington, should never have let this happen. He should have refused to become a cog in Trump’s machinery of deception and delusion.
When exactly should Spicer have resigned? Not after his star had faded to such an extent that most press-secretary duties were being handled by his deputy, a slightly steadier Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Not after he started breaking records for “pants-on-fire” claims. Not after he became the subject of Melissa McCarthy’s mockery on SNL. Spicer should have quit when Trump demanded that he start this presidency off with a spectacular lie.