The Hindu explains

Who is Sean Spicer?

“Two-minute warning,” an aide would announce through a half-opened blue door that separates the White House’s West Wing office rooms from the press briefing room, any moment after 1.30 pm every weekday. TV reporters would call their broadcast centres and cameras would focus on the blue door, which would open again in two minutes. Sean Spicer would then emerge, a thick binder in hand, and half-a-dozen aides in tow. For the next one hour, he would be his master’s voice. His master is the President of the United States, and he is the White House Press Secretary.

Donald Trump has chosen to save his choicest tweets for the media. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has articulated the terms of confrontation that are defining the public engagement of this administration more unambiguous by calling the media the opposition.

Whether the war is on media or on facts, Mr. Spicer is deployed for the hand-to-hand combat every day. And it is at Mr. Spicer’s passive-aggressive briefings that the tenor of this combat is most often set. Little wonder that comedy show Saturday Night Live’s most talked about offering recently is Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Mr. Spicer, signalling his arrival in Washington, DC.

Why did the President wait so long before sacking his National Security Adviser? Will the President issue a new executive on travel restrictions? Will NATO be dismantled? What will happen to the nuclear deal with Iran? Will the U.S. embassy in Israel shift to Jerusalem? Has the President paid his taxes? Questions are many, and new ones are added with every tweet from @realDonaldTrump whose personal handle remains as fertile as ever. Many in this city of power intrigues do not covet Mr. Spicer’s job as most questions that he faces starts with the preface: “The President has tweeted/said….”

But answering such questions is only one part of Mr. Spicer’s job. Mr. Trump has said he has a running war with the media, which he wages through his tweets. Mr. Spicer is the hand-to-hand combatant in Mr. Trump’s war on media. The press secretary is never tired of reminding reporters of their irrelevance and the fact that the President has a way of reaching out to the American people through digital platforms, bypassing the reporters.

Turning the tables

If the U.S. tradition of daily briefings by the President’s spokesperson was designed to hold the executive accountable, Mr. Spicer has turned the tables. “There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable, as well,” he told reporters the day after the President assumed office.

Since then, Mr. Spicer has said the media is not adequately informing the American public of the terror threats that the nation faces; he thinks the press must write more about how the Democrats are not letting the policy initiatives of the President take off.

Mr. Spicer worked with various Congressional committees before being appointed communications director of the Republican National Committee in 2011, a position he held until he was appointed press secretary. He was a critic of Mr. Trump in the early days of the campaign, but that’s evidently all in the past.

Yet, for all the put on aggression, Mr. Spicer, an old-world Republican with a sense of humour and the reputation of being soft-spoken, is not always confrontational. If one looks keenly, it isn’t difficult to see him suppress a smile after reprimanding a reporter, which is not rare. That perhaps makes him especially tempting fodder for TV comedians, and his habit of chewing 35 pieces of gum by noon, and swallowing it all, is particularly helpful to caricature.

 

 

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 4:15:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sean-spicerhis-masters-voice/article17326734.ece

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