In 2008 the Oliver Stone-directed W was released starring Josh Brolin as the (at that moment still incumbent) ex-president. It pulled in a weak $29 million at the box office on a budget of $25 million, meaning that when other costs like marketing are factored in the movie likely lost money or broke just even with DVD and pay per view sales.
The movie was cast well (Brolin, Ellen Burstyn, Jeffery Wright, James Cromwell) and avoided the paranoiac plotlines that characterized early Oliver Stone. It isn't, I suppose, a bad film. But as I wrote at the time, it simply was too soon to release a movie about the GW Bush years. It was still ongoing when the film opened and the truly worst parts of it – the Iraq War, Katrina, etc – were recent enough memories that the movie was assured of alienating any potential audience. Bush fans would assume the movie was just going to mock him, and people who didn't like Bush were nowhere near ready to laugh about what at the time seemed like the American presidency at its rock bottom worst.
The W film has been almost completely forgotten, but it came back to me in a flash when I received the first of a thousand "Sean Spicer was just on the Emmys trying to make jokes" messages Sunday evening into Monday.
To say that it is "too soon" to laugh about any aspect of the Trump presidency is a wild understatement, and for the individuals involved there may never be a time where they can be viewed sympathetically. Every time I have felt the urge to feel slightly bad for the White House staff under this administration I have found it useful to remind myself that they are doing this of their own will. They are not career civil servants duty-bound to serve whoever happens to have power. These are opportunists, losers who no half-respectable campaign would hire and who latched onto Trump like barnacles because nobody else would elevate such total losers to such highly visible positions.
Sean Spicer could have walked away at any moment; in fact he could have avoided the situation altogether quite easily. But he didn't. He wanted the money, he wanted the attention, and he wanted a chance to leap from Single-A (where he belongs, doing PR for some tenth-rate 501c in northern Virginia) to the Major Leagues despite being devoid of any skills except for dog-like loyalty to a very bad person.
Americans have a great capacity for people with bad jobs, because most of us feel like we understand what it is like to show up every day to work for a bad boss and/or at a bad job. But Sean Spicer was not living in a cardboard box until Trump came along. He took a job in the White House in order to be a big shot and to get paid. Fine. That's the choice he made. Now live with it. If ever there is going to be a time at which seeing these Trump hangers-on do image rehabilitation, it certainly isn't now. It will be a very long time from now, and quite possibly never.