Sean Spicer Is No Anti-Semite. He's the Poster Child For The Peter Principle.

04/14/2017 08:09 pm ET Updated Apr 18, 2017

I don’t believe Sean Spicer is anti-Semitic. I think he is a living, breathing example of the Peter Principle in action ― someone who has risen to his level of incompetency. 

By all accounts, Spicer served ably as a PR flak for Republican organizations before being named White House press secretary. He even founded his own public relations firm. But the daily glare and grind of having to justify, explain and defend a president and administration that is constantly shifting positions and oftentimes tweeting out falsehoods would trip up even the most agile wordsmith.

Spicer got caught up in a moment of downward momentum. Who among us has not been tongue-tied when confronted by a penetrating inquiry from a boss or spouse or partner? Have you ever stood before television cameras under bright lights for 30 minutes answering question after question from skeptical, cynical interlocutors? 

No, Spicer was no anti-Semite. He was regrettably, for him, exposed as incompetent and more than a little ignorant. So send Spicer to a Holocaust study camp. Instruct him in the details of the Holocaust. 

Spicer’s ignorance of history fits the pattern of ignorance exhibited by Donald Trump’s appointments. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doesn’t know basic education theories. Rick Perry has no knowledge of, or background in, nuclear energy which he is empowered to control as energy secretary.  Environmental Protection Agency commissioner  Scott Pruitt thinks he knows more about climate change than the overwhelming majority of scientists. 

I don’t think Sean Spicer does his job well. He should resign or be fired. But not because he is anti-Semitic. 

Trump 2.0?: Now that he has fulfilled his promise to restore a conservative balance to the Supreme Court with a probable anti-abortion stance, Trump may just may be on the verge of transitioning toward a more centrist presidency. At least that’s what numerous political analysts are spitting out these days. They cite his admission that running the government is more complex than candidate Trump thought it could be and that many of the positions he took on the hustings are just not viable or appropriate now that he’s in office. 

On Thursday the AP included the following list in a story on his reign (of terror—my descriptor): 

“Over the past 48 hours, the outsider politician who pledged to upend Washington has:

- Abandoned his vow to label China a currency manipulator.

- Rethought his hands-off assessment of the Syrian conflict - and ordered a missile attack.

- Turned his warm approach toward Vladimir Putin decidedly chilly and declared U.S.-Russia relations “may be at an all-time low.

- Decided NATO isn’t actually obsolete, as he had claimed.

- Realized the U.S. Export-Import Bank is worth keeping around.”

Those are all fine and good transitions, but he remains a mean-spirited executive of uneven temperament, especially towards issues that affect women and the health of Mother Earth. Last week Bill Maher’s New Rules segment included a scorching rebuke of Trump administration actions. See for yourself.

Trump has declared war not just on American women seeking control over their bodies but on women throughout the globe who need affordable, attainable health care. On Thursday he signed a bill rescinding an Obama-era rule prohibiting states from denying federal funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood if they also provide abortion services. Federal law already restricts funding for abortions. Trump’s signature now imperils the ability of organizations to have sufficient monies to offer preventive care to women including breast examinations, family planning and reproductive health services for mostly low-income families and the uninsured. 

In late January women the world over took a hit from Trump when he re-instituted a Reagan-era ban prohibiting foreign aid to health care providers who discuss abortion as a family-planning option. Those put at risk by Trump’s actions include many of the poorest women in the world who live in countries where abortion is legal. 

Low-Tech Protection: Here’s a low-tech way to protect pedestrians from terrorists driving trucks into crowds as has happened in France, Sweden, Israel and Germany—Erect cement or metal barriers in front of buildings such as department stores, museums, government offices, theaters and tourist attractions where people are known to congregate. 

After The Oklahoma City federal office building bombing in 1995, real estate owners began placing barriers in front of their structures. They were placed there to stop car bombs from getting too close to the buildings. But the barriers could serve the additional function of keeping trucks and other vehicles from mowing down people on the sidewalk. Though a test in Germany found concrete barriers to be less than ideal, they would limit the havoc from a terrorist attack. 

European cities already fence off parts of sidewalks where they don’t want pedestrians to cross. It would not seem to be too cumbersome an effort to shield areas where crowds gather. 

Speaking of crowds, Ted Bernstein, the legendary copyeditor of The New York Times, must be rolling over in his grave given the excessive mistakes that find their way into print on paper and online. Since the Internet sharply reduced the time from article conception to distribution mistakes have skyrocketed. 

They’re not all typos. Many times they are the wrong words correctly spelled, as in this example from an article on the size of the inauguration crowd I read in the print edition of The Times earlier this week:

“Upon being sworn into office, the president began to silence federal agencies from speaking out on the social media platform after the National Park Service’s official Twitter account posted side-by-side images comparing the size of the crows at Mr. Trump’s inauguration.” 

Did you catch the mistake? Spellchecker didn’t as “crows” is spelled correctly. The online version of the story published the intended word, “crowd.” 

Change of Phrase: It used to be Israel was said to be the only true democracy in the Middle East. Now, with elections in Tunisia and Lebanon, among other states, Israel has begun identifying itself as “the Middle East’s only haven for free speech, women, and minorities.” 

It’s a commendable position but not nearly as solid as its former claim, made all the more slippery by its control over 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

Did You Know Dilbert creator Scott Adams is a conspiracy theorist?

On April 6, Adams posted an article on his website claiming that the fatal Khan Shaykhun chemical attack in Syria two days earlier was a “manufactured event” designed to provoke a response (http://blog.dilbert.com/post/159264981001/the-syrian-gas-attack-persuasion?utm_source=blog.dilbert.com/share-email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=brand-loyalty).

That’s enough to make the bottom of my necktie stand up and shriek, “Noooooo, don’t make me put Dilbert on my no-read list!” 

CONVERSATIONS