When George Orwell’s 1984 is studied in the future, reference will surely be made to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s remarkable briefing at the close of the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Trump had been sworn in a day earlier, as a commander in chief without a mandate—a candidate who lost 54 percent of the popular vote and trailed his chief opponent by close to 3 million votes. The pretender delivered an uninspired 16-minute inaugural address to an unimpressive crowd and then paraded through the streets of a capital city where 96 percent of the electorate had rejected him, and where evidence of enthusiasm for his inauguration gave new meaning to the term “modest.”
On the following morning, in the same capital city, the streets were filled by a crowd of Americans—conservatively estimated at more than a half-million—who had come to challenge the new administration’s policies toward women in particular and humanity in general. These Americans marched and rallied as part of a national (and global) outpouring of opposition to this president that was so dramatic that The Guardian headlined its report: “Women’s March on Washington overshadows Trump’s first full day in office.”
It was a nightmare scenario for the newly minted press secretary for a man whom the crowds of dissenters decried as a “minority president.” Spicer, at experienced hand at communications, could have approached the circumstance from any number of directions. Or he could simply have said nothing on a Saturday night when no one was expecting the partied-out Trump team to add anything to the narrative.
But Trump and his aides fully recognize that the legitimacy of his presidency is in question. And they fully fear that even his supporters are beginning to question the wisdom of their 2016 choices. (While Trump won 46 percent of the vote on Election Day, the Real Clear Politics average placed his approval rating at just 41.8 percent on the eve of his inauguration—and some surveys put the number as low as 32 percent.)