Editorials

Editorial: Sean Spicer’s Hitler remarks were awful. But they weren’t Holocaust denying.

Sean Spicer isn’t very effective as White House press secretary.
Sean Spicer isn’t very effective as White House press secretary. AP

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer just may have saved his own job with his nonsensical Passover babbling about Syria’s Bashar al-Assad being worse than the Third Reich’s Adolf Hitler. President Donald Trump is never going to fire the guy with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for his head.

Spicer’s Hitler comparison — he said the man who sent millions of Jews to their deaths in gas chambers “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” — was all the things the president’s spokesman has said it was in his subsequent apologies: It was inappropriate and insensitive. And inexcusable and reprehensible, too.

But to call what he said Holocaust-denying — no, it wasn’t — is to make the same error he did, which was to lose all perspective in these hyperbolic times.

Though Spicer isn’t a particularly effective White House press secretary, it’s hard to think who could do the job well while also pleasing a president who sees the Fourth Estate as the enemy. We don’t think he should lose his job over these remarks, offensive as they were.

Reaching too often for the rhetorical nuclear option devalues the truly tremendous and the actually disastrous, not to mention the genuinely Holocaust-denying. Or even the genuinely troubling questions about a president who protested too much when he was asked about anti-Semitism at a news conference. And who put out a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism.

Spicer isn’t the first person whose speech patterns have begun to mimic those of a boss.

The list of things that our effusive president has referred to as a “total disaster” includes NAFTA, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Common Core and the TV show “The View.” The only step down from there, “a complete and total disaster,” is apparently reserved for calamities on par in his view with Obama’s health care law and Obama’s foreign policy.

But Trump’s tendency to overstate, overrate and over-criticize seems more of a symptom of our cable news-, talk radio- and social media-consuming age than a leading cause of our ebbing collective willingness to differentiate between the threatening and the merely annoying.

One problem with exaggerating is that it reliably undermines credibility. Which is just one reason you can never fight overstatement with more of the same, but only with unadorned facts.

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