Anne Frank, Anti-Semitism, and Sean Spicer: The Dimwitted Authoritarianism of the Trump Administration

It’s not just that Sean Spicer is picking a fight with Anne Frank. It’s that they insist we believe they’re in the right. 

Let’s look at a brief timeline, here.

In August, Trump hired Steve Bannon. It’s easy to say now that he’s evil, and that we knew it all along, but the thing is, we did know it all along. Here’s the Daily Beast on the hire, saying that “As Breitbart’s chief, Steve Bannon did a lot to normalize the racist, anti-Semitic world of the alt right.”

So this was pretty well-known from the jump. Let’s fast-forward, to when the Administration released a singularly Jew-free Holocaust Remembrance Frown. (But don’t worry: Reince expressed the right amount of horror at the largest crime in the history of the world. “”Everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust, including obviously all of the Jewish people affected and the miserable genocide that occurred is something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad and something that can never be forgotten,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.) It was pretty miserable, wasn’t it?

So then we go to last week’s press conference with Netanyahu, where Trump was asked about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in America, and responded by complimenting himself, and his electoral victory, and by mentioning that he had some Jewish people he knew.

So then we get to Thursday’s lunatic press conference, where he was asked again, by a Jewish reporter who very specifically said that no one considers him to be anti-Semitic, but what he would do as President to fight it.

He said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question and it’s not. It’s not a simple question, not a fair question. OK. Sit down. I understand the rest of your question.

So here’s the story folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two racism, the least racist person.

In fact we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican. Quiet, quiet, quiet. So he lied about – he was going to get up and ask a very straight simple question.

So you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister you heard Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him? Bibi. He said, I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time. And then he said – forget it. So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

I know we’ve all read that a bunch, but I do think this should be a chief exhibit when future historians research the time we elected someone with an honestly defective brain.

Anyway, after getting some heat for it, Trump reversed course, condemning anti-Semitism at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said after a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

He called his tour of the museum a “meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.” Trump told NBC News earlier in the day that anti-Semitism is “horrible,” and is “going to stop.”

Not bad! It’s, you know, boilerplate, but boilerplate is the most we can expect from this Administration. Still though, the Anne Frank Museum wasn’t having any of it.

On Tuesday morning, Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, blasted Trump in a Facebook post.

“His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record,” Goldstein said in the statement. “Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”

The statement continued:

“The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, Presidents’ Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

And that’s absolutely right. The Admin has (rightfully) been getting battered on this. It had assumed that because it was essentially Likudnik and would let Bibi do whatever he wanted it could innoculate itself from its alt-right leanings (which is why Trump was so surprised when the Jewish reporter didn’t ask him a “nice” question, and if you need to know more about how Trump thinks after that, you’re already pretty gone). But of course that’s not the case. The talk of alt-right anti-Semitic infestation has been burbling, barely covered over by the Israel assumption, and it was only when it became a raging current that the Administration offered even the most perfunctory statement.

So what do you do when you are called out by the Anne Frank Center? Spicer?

“I think he has been very forceful with his denunciation of people who seek to attack people because of their hate, because — excuse me, because of their religion, because of their gender, because of the color of their skin,” he said. “This is something that he is going to fight and make very, very clear that has no place in this administration.”

“But I think it’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this that it’s never good enough,” Spicer continued. “Today I think was an unbelievably forceful comment by the President as far as his denunciation of the actions that are currently targeted towards Jewish community centers. But I think that he has been very clear previous to this that he wants to be someone that brings this country together and not divide people, especially in those areas.”

“So I saw that statement. I wish that they had praised the President for his leadership in this area. And I think that hopefully as time continues to go by they recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans,” he said.

What are you going to do? The sheer mendacity of this statement makes response almost overwhelming. It’s really perfectly Trumpian, which is to say, equal parts self-servingly lazy and deeply sinister.

There is, of course, the singularly dishonest throwaway about voting rights and civil rights. The appointment of Jeff Sessions is enough to belie that. It’s 100% removed from the truth.

The lazy part is the normal Trump con, where he says he’s going to do something, and people believe it, and to him, that means its done. “he wants to be someone that brings this country together” is, to these clowns, the same thing as actually being unifying. Saying it is the extent of the con. It doesn’t matter that every action and statement contradicts it. Saying so is enough, so stop questioning them.

But these come together when he whines about how the center should have “praised the President for his leadership”. That’s insane, and key to their dimwitted authoritarianism. It’s not that they want to convince you of things: it’s that they want you to believe. They feel that if they say the President is showing leadership, even when he is reacting in the most basic sense after weeks of criticism, that you should believe it is leadership. And if you don’t, it is fake news.

The President has not been forceful about this. He’s only responded to it when prodded incessantly, and even then in the most perfunctory manner. I don’t know if it is his personal bigotry and lust for racial violence, or he just won’t admit that anything bad could be even remotely tied to him (but probably both), but the result is the same.

And so we have an Administration whose chief spokesperson can’t even say “We have nothing but respect for the mission of the Anne Frank museum, and we will work with them to combat this horrible scourge.” No. It’s “they should be praising the President for his non-existent leadership, because we say it exists.”

This isn’t incidental. It’s key to the program. It puts us on the defensive. When we have to argue about the very tenets of reality, they win. Authoritarianism is not just about forceful control; it’s about setting the field where the debate can be, because then the opponents can never coalesce, never strategize, and never get their feet under them. The Trump Administration is full of halfwits and psychopaths, and so isn’t particularly competent, but they know lying, and the forceful insistence that you believe that lie, lets them win.

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