TOO SOON, MAN. TOO SOON.

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.

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37 Responses to “TOO SOON, MAN. TOO SOON.”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    OK, but surely we can allow an exception for Scaramucci. You can't fault anyone for joking with a guy who never anything other than a joke.

    Which, I suppose, is the problem with Spicer–he was always a joke, but it was a joke he was excluded from–we were laughing AT, and now he seems to believe that, because he's no longer at his post, we're obliged to let him into the circle, and laugh WITH.

    Which…no, Sean. I never found Spicer as odious as others did, if only because literally every single press secretary ever has done some version of the "Consult and Decide Beforehand Which Obfuscation, Denial, and Lie to Tell, Then Go Out and Tell It." Spicer wasn't, to my mind, any morally worse than, say, Ari Fleischer.

    He was just BAD at it. Like, really, really BAD at it. And maybe that had to do with the fact that it would be impossible to be GOOD at covering the lies and blunders of this presidency. (Although, really, go back and check the record on Bush the Lesser's term in office–that was a serious cluster of bumblefucks, and Fleischer held it together.)

    Fucking Spicer lied, and he should be ostracized. Yes. But fucking Oliver North, man. Fucking Chris Christie being wooed by multiple–MULTIPLE–news channels. Shit, fucking Roy Fucking Cohn, if you want to go way back. Fucking EVERYBODY who enables evil shit in the name of personal gain, and walks out and is embraced by a mainstream world that fucking knows better and doesn't care.

    I agree that Spicer should rot at the bottom of a well for awhile. I just have seen this story too many times to be UPSET about it.

  2. sluggo Says:

    Thank God he was bad at his job. The Trump administration's incompetence is the only thing between all of us and a concentration camp.

  3. democommie Says:

    "I agree that Spicer should rot at the bottom of a well for awhile. I just have seen this story too many times to be UPSET about it."

    Nah, not a well. A played out mineshaft or if Yucca Mountain has room…

    The "news" programs that everyone watches are becoming less about journalism and more about populist cheerleading and is just one other reason that I avoid watching virtually all "news" programming other than the weather for my area.

  4. Brian M Says:

    Not to do one upmanship, demo, but I just find professional television so…tiring…altogether. I can't even remember the last time I watched an American television news show. Radio is a little better, and only a little bit. Even the BBC was blatantly issuing propaganda on middle eastern issues over the past few years.

    Except for some of the amazing scripted shows in the crevices. Like Man in the High Castle, Westworld, and the fascinating Hell On Wheels from a few years back.

  5. democommie Says:

    I would prolly watch a lot of worse shit than I do if I had cable. As it is, I watch movies that I've seen enough times in their chopped up, commercial tv format that I can tell when to stop doing this and go back for the bloody, funny or funnybloody endings.

    What I meant to put in my previous comment was that Dickwad Spice was on Colbert the other night (maybe it was re-run?) and I realized that he is just as fatuous when he has no reason to be. So, he's just low rent, he's not even as devious as he is stupid.

  6. Gregory Says:

    It is too early to normalize Spicer. It will probably always be too early to normalize Spicer and all the other miscreants involved in Trump's PR machine. I would prefer that they explain their actions at the Nuremburg Trials Part Deux.

  7. Alan C Says:

    What I don't get is why the hell Spicy is a visiting fellow at Harvard.

  8. democommie Says:

    It would have to be Nuremburg Trials Part Douchebag.

  9. Dean Says:

    "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."

    Hence our devotion to Founding Fathers and such nonsense.

  10. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Gregory:

    May it be so. I'm steeling myself for the Trump-wasn't-that-bad revisionism when the next fresh hell sweeps in.

  11. Talisker Says:

    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

    The generals (Mattis, McMaster, Kelly) are a partial exception. They voluntarily signed on to serve Trump, knowing what a complete idiot he was. (McMaster is active duty and was ordered to do it, but in theory could have resigned his commission.) But they appear to be intelligent and capable men who are serving because they know Trump is an idiot, and hope to mitigate the risk of having an idiot with his finger on the nuclear button.

    Are they right to do it? On balance, I'd say yes. They lend a veneer of legitimacy to the Trump shitshow, but they probably are reducing the chance of Trump killing tens of millions of people. That seems like a fair trade to me.

    @J Dryden:

    Spicer wasn't, to my mind, any morally worse than, say, Ari Fleischer.

    The actions Fleishcer enabled were worse, no question. Trump did not start an illegal and pointless war during Spicer's tenure.

    But the person Spicer enabled was worse. Dubya was an awful President, but on a good day he was able to adequately fulfil the basic duties of the office. The character displayed by Trump on his best days is about on a par with Dubya on his worst days. The only reason Trump hasn't yet started a nuclear war with North Korea is sheer dumb luck (and maybe the efforts of Mattis et al).

  12. Dave Dell Says:

    Thank you Sluggo. "Thank God he was bad at his job. The Trump administration's incompetence is the only thing between all of us and a concentration camp."

    It's why I'm so against impeachment. Pence would be just good enough at his job for passage of the complete R agenda.

    Probably not concentration camps in the Holocaust sense but "Poor Laws" and workhouses.

  13. Talisker Says:

    @Dave Dell: Impeachment is unlikely to happen unless the Dems take the House and Senate in 2018. (Even then, it's mathematically impossible for them to win a two-thirds majority in the Senate, so they'd need the support of at least a dozen or so Republican Senators.)

    Faced with a Democratic Congress, President Pence would have limited powers to enact his agenda. And while Pence is a loathsome travesty of a man, he's much less likely to kill tens of millions of people through sheer ineptitude.

    Also, impeachment would have symbolic importance as a rejection of Trump. Every day he remains in office is a signal that it's okay to have a POTUS who is completely unfit for the job and ignorant of his responsibilities. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that's a bad thing.

  14. doug Says:

    'they voluntarily signed on to serve Trump, knowing what a complete idiot he was. (McMaster is active duty and was ordered to do it, but in theory could have resigned his commission.) But they appear to be intelligent and capable men who'
    have staged a military coup in the US….
    FIFY

  15. geoff Says:

    @Talisker, Doug, yeah, y'know what you call a government largely run by the military? A JUNTA.

    And yes, Trump's certainly killed some "folks" overseas, but on nothing like the scale of Bush or Obama. But the creeping fascism here at home is uh, concerning? Fuck those Nazi motherfuckers and anybody who cooperates with them. Like Chuck and Nancy need to lay off that "let's make a deal" shit and just throw as much sand in the gears as they can. Worked pretty good for McConnell, right?

  16. John Danley Says:

    Spicer did it for the children, you see.

  17. doug Says:

    'And yes, Trump's certainly killed some "folks" overseas, but on nothing like the scale of Bush or Obama.'

    True that Geoff, but give them time.

    Chuck and Nancy will do whatever increases their 'brand' and consequently their wallet and pocketbook.

  18. Katydid Says:

    @Dave Dell and Talisker; if we were to end up with Pence, he'd immediately impose Christian Sharia law and make it a death sentence to be female in America. He'd make The HandMaid's Tale look like "Free to Be…You and Me". Additionally, when he was gov of Indiana, he really screwed them financially, so he doesn't even have THAT going for him.

  19. geoff Says:

    @doug, yeah, that's what worries me. A lot of the generals seem to have a real hard-on for Iran, and Ambassador Haley seems to be trying to start WWIII in Korea. Good times!!

    Also, as to rehabilitating the Bush gang, I feel like those guys are war criminals, as are Obama and Clinton (well, both of 'em), but our level of outrage at them is muted because a) in Obama and the Clintons' case, they're on "our team", and b) it's a lot easier to get upset about people getting shot by the cops or run over by Nazis here at home than it is little kids in Yemen getting blown up by drones, PARTICULARLY because the US media's just not paying them any attention.

  20. geoff Says:

    SHIT: "Trump Threatens to ‘Totally Destroy’ North Korea" — NYT

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/world/americas/united-nations-general-assembly.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    Glad I don't live on the west coast anymore, but I guess once the missiles start flying there's really nowhere to hide.

  21. MS Says:

    On the contrary. It is all but certain that not a single individual will suffer any consequences – social, financial, criminal, or otherwise – for serving in the Trump administration. The Republican Party loves these people. The Democratic Party also loves these people. There's absolutely zero political will to ostracize, condemn, or otherwise expel these people from polite society. Sean Spicer is not quite a "good get" in polite D.C. cocktail party circles, because he's not rich enough and hasn't been around long enough, but any host in D.C. would be happy to have him.

    NO ONE in D.C. thinks that Spicer has done anything wrong, bad, unethical, or unusual. It's only you proles outside the corridors of power who think he's done anything noteworthy.

    Sean Spicer is likely to fall right into TV gigs or other suitable right-wing puke funnel jobs.

  22. MS Says:

    As a reminder, here's how polite society has treated John Yoo:

    https://www.law.berkeley.edu/our-faculty/faculty-profiles/john-yoo/

    https://www.law.berkeley.edu/article/a-celebration-of-berkeley-laws-new-faculty-chair-holders/

  23. geoff Says:

    @MS, alas you are correct. Poli Sci prof. Corey Robin sent a stinging letter to the American Political Science Association for having Yoo speak at their recent convention in San Francisco. But hell, Henry fucking Kissinger has been a revered "elder statesman" for what, 40 years? Lack of accountability is the American Way.

    http://coreyrobin.com/2017/08/25/when-political-scientists-legitimate-torturers/

  24. John Doheny Says:

    Sean Spicer gets a nice hand at the Grammies, Steve Bannon gets a prime spot on 60 Minutes,but Hillary Clinton needs to go away. Hmmm.

  25. Talisker Says:

    @Doug, Geoff: Do I think it's a good thing for some generals nobody elected to be pulling the strings of civilian government? No, I do not. But it's less bad than Trump starting a nuclear war. Most things would be.

    @Katydid: Nonsense. Pence couldn't enact sweeping changes in society just by sitting in the Oval Office and wishing for them, any more than Trump can. He'd do all kinds of horrible shit, but he'd be working within the rules of a system which provides many avenues for frustrating him.

  26. Katydid Says:

    @Talisker; you're quite naive about Pence, particularly with a Republican majority under him.

  27. Talisker Says:

    @Katydid: See my above point. Trump will almost certainly not be impeached unless the Dems hold the House and Senate. At that point the prospect of President Pence is much less worrying.

    Also, I'm old enough to remember hysterical predictions that George W Bush would abolish the First Amendment, cancel the 2008 election, or whatever. I'd put Pence in the same class as GWB: He's committed to an ignorant, evil, and destructive ideology, and capable of doing terrible damage, but he is not an existential threat in the same sense that Trump is.

  28. democommie Says:

    @ Talisker:

    My existence is threatened more by Father Time (that fucking thug!) than any of the moronz currently running the show in D.C.

    FWIW, tribal loyalties notwithstanding; Schumer and Pelosi are far less assholish than ANY member with any standing in the GOP. Think about that. They have never publicly called for fucking you and me as a necessary policy of governance. That they have a rather spineless public face is regrettable but I'll take either of them as my representative over the feckless ReiKKKwing moronz that are currently running things.

  29. Talisker Says:

    @democommie:

    Suit yourself. Personally I'm a lot less sanguine about Trump having control of nuclear weapons.

    I realise the Congressional Dems are nicer (or at least less awful) than their GOP counterparts. When did I say otherwise?

  30. StrokeCity FC Says:

    @MS

    "Sean Spicer is likely to fall right into TV gigs or other suitable right-wing puke funnel jobs."

    The big five news organizations have passed on offering former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer a job as an exclusive paid contributor, network sources confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/networks-pass-sean-spicer-paid-contributor-role-n802781

    "Since Spicer exited the White House, his representatives have been holding individual conversations about the possibility of President Donald Trump's former flack joining one of the major TV networks, which include CBS News, CNN, Fox News, ABC News and NBC News.

    But 'they won't touch him,' said a media industry executive familiar with those conversations.

    'The news organizations might use him on roundtables, but [a paid exclusive contributor job] is not happening,' the executive added."

  31. democommie Says:

    @ Talisker:

    "I realise the Congressional Dems are nicer (or at least less awful) than their GOP counterparts. When did I say otherwise?"

    earlier:

    "Fuck those Nazi motherfuckers and anybody who cooperates with them. Like Chuck and Nancy need to lay off that "let's make a deal" shit and just throw as much sand in the gears as they can. Worked pretty good for McConnell, right?".

    So, you're saying that there NOT cooperating with them? I'm sorry if I'm misunderstanding you but I'm pretty sure that McConnell has had–until Trumpligulamygdala brought his brand, "Chaos" into national politics–a nearly total party line vote since at least 2008.

    The Blue Dog dems, may they be reviled forever, torpedoes Obama's original plan for healthcare. He had a numeric majority and and actual balkanized party.

    As for Pelosi Schumer throwing sand in the gears. I'm pretty sure that they have been doing it non-stop since the GOP got the majority in 2010. That it has been effective is certainly not evident but I never have felt that they willingly collude with those fucking snakes in the the GOP.

  32. Talisker Says:

    @democommie: That was @geoff, not me.

  33. geoff Says:

    @dc, i was just ranting, sorry. A writer I enjoy has said that dems, in light of Trump's Charlottesville comments (i.e pretty explicit support for fucking Nazis) need to drop their "let's cooperate with the Pres.* where we can" shit and shut it down before we're all in camps.

    https://twitter.com/EIWBM_Cat

    I could argue that we the peeps shoulda shut shit down OURSELVES since at least the Vietnam war (I was in elementary school by the time it ended), because if your government relies on blowing up brown people on the other side of the world to retain its power, it is illegitimate (a ridiculous understatement).

  34. geoff Says:

    Or to be more explicit, Nancy and Chuck should not be having dinner at the White House, they should be spitting in the GEB's face because he is publicly supporting the rise of fascism in the US. The Dems are normalizing fascism. (Per that writer, and I can certainly see her point.)

  35. geoff Says:

    But hell, W. launched an unprovoked war against Iraq, instituted torture in offshore gulags as official policy, and expanded electronic surveillance to basically everyone everywhere, and he's happily painting away in Houston. If THAT shit's not fascism, I don't know what is.

  36. democommie Says:

    @ Talisker:

    Sorry. I really need to start reading slower and thinking faster or something.

    That's the second or third time I've done that recently, here. I don't think I'm getting alzheimers or dementia but for some reason I have attributed one person's comments to someone else. It could just be the problem of having bi-focals that make it difficult to read a screen easily..

    Again, sorry.

    @ Geoff:

    You and I certainly agree on the perfidy and criminality of the GOP.

    Where we differ, although not that much, is on the dems.

    I understand the discontent of people who are pissed about what has happened in Congress over the last 37 years. Ever since Reagan's first term, the reactionaries (they are NOT conservatives) who increasingly represent the GOP in public office have used the tactics of the big lie, fealty to the flag, obeisance to christianity, racism, misogynism, anti-feminism, anti-intellectualism and jingoism to both gin up support from the base and attack "The OTHER"–including their political representatives.

    I agree that Pelosi and Schumer should not be eating a meal with Trumpligulamygdala but I'm not sure that them doing so has anything to do with the DACA deal or something else that's on the front-burner.

    Samuel Clemens, as Mark Twain, observed:

    “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.”

    Add to the GOP's willingness to ignore governance in favor of destroying the mechanisms of such the deliberate attempts by the Blue Dog dems to derail much of the Obama administations legislative program.

    It is harder to build than it is to tear down and the current administration with the complicity and actual aid of Congressional refucKKKliKKKlansmen is not so much tearing it down as trying to makie Detroit's "Hell Night" be a national phenomenon.

  37. geoff Says:

    Thanks, dc. The second of those three comments was kind of from Illingworth's perspective. I am pretty angry about how things have been going in this country since my early adulthood, and am REAL burned that Obama, who I thought campaigned in '08 on maybe pushing back on the Bush years basically carried on as if nothing had changed (imo). I can understand why so few Americans really pay attention to politics: it's maddening, and the opinions of those vast majority of us without the big $$ are ignored by the political and corporate elites.

    But I guess what I really question in myself and others is why we're more outraged by white supremacists in the White House (get it?) than our unending horribly destructive wars. I'm not letting myself off the hook, here, believe me. (Sad!)