Normally, you would think that a public official would pick a spokesperson based on that person’s ability to shape and convey positive and persuasive messages that advanced the public official’s agenda. And when the “public official” in question is the President of the United States, whose every move is put under a microscope, you would think the careful messaging requirement would be even more essential.
So how in the world did Sean Spicer end up as the White House press secretary?
Spicer later apologized, but the entire incident raises questions about Spicer and his staff. Spicer’s abrasive style clearly rubs the press the wrong way, and it has been hilariously lampooned by Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live. There’s nothing wrong with having a combative press secretary if that is the President’s way of sending a message to the media, although Spicer often seems over the top for my tastes. But you can’t have a press secretary whose behavior and comments make him the story that distracts from, and undercuts, the President’s goals. Don’t Spicer and his staff prepare for his press conferences, and carefully consider the arguments he is going to present before he goes before the country and makes them? If so, how could his staff not recognize the fundamental, underlying idiocy of his comparison of Assad and Hitler? And if they don’t vet his arguments, and Spicer just “wings it,” then he’s an incompetent whose instincts are obviously ill-suited for the job, and it’s just a matter of time before he makes another thoughtless and stupid comment that sets off another firestorm or provokes an unintended international incident.
Either way, Spicer should be replaced as press secretary. President Trump might like his two-fisted way of dealing with the press that Trump seems to hold in contempt, but he’s got to realize that Spicer is a huge liability who is just going to step into it again, and again, and again, and make the Trump Administration as a whole look like amateur hour. That’s not the kind of messaging you want from your press secretary.
What should Jews do? No one is predicting a second Holocaust — but no one predicted a first Holocaust, either. No one wants to retreat in the face of depraved and murderous attacks, but would you want to continue to expose your family and children to potentially unsafe conditions and a culture in which slurs and physical intimidation are increasingly commonplace? It’s an impossible individual choice, being made against the dark historical backdrop of genocide that happened on the European continent less than a century ago.
The burden instead must fall on governments to stop Europe from backsliding into hell. Protest marches and public pronouncements are nice, but more must be done to stop the anti-Semitic wave, demonstrate the commitment to a Europe that welcomes and includes Jews, culturally and politically, and aggressively identify and prosecute the perpetrators of street bullying, vandalism, shootings, and every other anti-Jewish criminal act. Americans can reinforce that message by not spending their money in Europe unless action is taken.
If people are to leave the European continent in the wake of an anti-Semitic wave, it should be the wrongdoers, not the persecuted.
Earlier this month, the newest memorial on the Ohio Statehouse grounds was dedicated. Located on the State Street side, it is a memorial to the millions who died during the Holocaust — and to the soldiers who helped to liberate them.
The memorial is The Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial. It consists of two massive steel and bronze pieces that fit together to leave a symbolic empty space in the shape of the Star of David; the pieces are engraved with statements about the Holocaust. A granite walkway leads up to the memorial, bordered by a low limestone wall that reads: “Inspired by the Ohio Soldiers who were part of the American Liberation and Survivors who made Ohio their home” and adds, “If You Save One Life, It Is As If You Saved The World.”
Reading Richard’s story reminded me of the first time I focused on the fact that I met a Holocaust survivor. I was traveling through Europe and encountered a vivacious older woman, probably in her 50s, with flaming red hair and an outgoing personality. We were talking, she shifted in her seat and moved her arms, and a crude numerical tattoo that I hadn’t noticed before was exposed. I looked at it and realized what it was, and she saw that I had seen it and decided to tell her story.
Her name was Bella and she was from Poland, she said. When she was young, the Nazis came and took her family away. She never saw her father and brothers again. She was separated from her mother, and she and her sister lived in one of the Nazi death camps. Her sister died, but somehow she survived. When the war ended and she was miraculously freed, she found that her entire family had been killed — but she felt it was essential that she live on. She related her story in a flat voice, and you could tell that she lived with those horrible ghosts and memories, but there was a definite steeliness to this woman who had endured so much.
Talking to her, I felt embarrassed and ashamed to be a member of the race that could commit such a monstrous act. I also was uplifted, however, by her positive attitude and by her view that, by surviving and going on, she was spitting in the eye of Hitler and the Nazis and their idiotic notions of an Aryan “master race.” There is still much to be learned from victims of the Holocaust.
The atrocities in the labor camps have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans, and hundreds of thousands more have died through starvation as a result of governmental policies that use the supply of food to keep the population under control. The report finds that North Korea also practices discrimination against women and others in a rigid, state-assigned class system, prevents the free exercise of thought, conscience, and religion, and operates a police state in which security forces use violence and cruel punishments to create a climate of fear.
The UN report reminds us of the Holocaust and calls for prompt international action to end the atrocities of an evil government, but that is not likely to happen. North Korea denies all of the allegations of the report. More importantly China, North Korea’s ally and protector, indicates that it will not support any intervention. As awful as the North Korean regime is, and as terrible as the suffering of its people may be, the international community has few options short of invasion — and there does not seem to be much appetite for such a step.
So, we are left with a report that probably will not change the reality in North Korea — but that report nevertheless serves a useful purpose. There truly is evil in the world, and it is important for us to be periodically reminded of that unfortunate fact.
The WJC wants to spotlight the rise of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe. And sure enough, the presence of the WJC caused the anti-Semites to come crawling out of their holes, spewing their hateful rhetoric. The Chairman of the Jobbik Party — which sounds like a Tolkien character but is the third-largest party in Hungary — accused Israelis of trying to buy the country, and another Jobbik member of Parliament said his country had become “subjugated to Zionism” and was the target of “colonization” by Israel. The ugly speeches and slanderous scapegoating are chillingly familiar and profoundly disturbing.
It’s important not to ignore the signs of anti-Semitism. The years before the Holocaust showed that merely hoping that right-thinking people will ultimately prevail isn’t good enough — anti-Semitic rhetoric and conduct needs to be confronted and defeated. That’s why moving the World Jewish Congress meeting to Budapest was the right thing to do.
It turns out that Hitler is popular in certain parts of India, because he is viewed as giving “dignity and prestige” to Germany. Apparently Indian schoolbooks don’t teach people that he was a mass murderer whose bloody dictatorial reign made Germany a pariah state that, even now, 70 years later, is still trying to to live down the inexplicable horror of the Nazi years.
But hey . . . if using the name Hitler and the swastika brings curious people into the store and results in a few purchases that might not have occurred otherwise, what’s the harm of trading on the name of one of history’s most evil figures?