White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, saying that even someone as "despicable" as the German dictator "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons."Asked moments later to clarify those remarks, Spicer, speaking from the White House podium, said that Hitler "was not using the gas on his own people the same way Assad used them."
When it comes to Donald Trump's White House and issues related to the Nazi Holocaust, the president and his team have made some unfortunate missteps. There was, for example, the ll-advised statement honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. A month later, the West Wing had an odd quarrel with the Anne Frank Center.Today, however, Team Trump broke new ground.
Spicer went on to say Hitler brought people into "Holocaust centers."All of this, of course, unfolded from the White House podium during Passover.Part of what makes this so remarkable is how obviously wrong Spicer was. One need not be a historian to know Hitler gassed Holocaust victims. The reference to "his own people" made an unfortunate mistake worse. As for Spicer describing Nazi concentration camps as "Holocaust centers," I honestly don't know where to start.But even looking past the press secretary's regrettable choice of words, it's even less clear what point Spicer intended to make.If the president's chief spokesperson was hoping to make the case that Bashar al-Assad is a monster, responsible for horrible atrocities, Spicer is certainly correct -- but we already knew this. Assad's record as a butcher is unambiguous.Who is Spicer trying to convince?What's more, the comments don't do anything to help the administration's current approach towards Syria. If Assad, in the eyes of the White House, is guilty of crimes even Hitler didn't commit, why in the world is the Trump administration not doing more to bring him down?We can all think of instances in which the president and his aides have said offensive and outrageous things, but today's mistake is striking in large part because it was so easy to avoid.The most generous interpretation I can think of is that Trump himself came up with this talking point, told Spicer to say it, and the press secretary was stuck repeating a horrible argument. But whether Spicer or Trump was responsible for this nonsense, it might be time for the West Wing to organize a field trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. It's within walking distance of the White House, so it's not as if Team Trump has any excuses.Update: In yet another attempt at clarifying matters, Spicer followed his earlier remarks with a third statement: "In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable."