In case you missed it, former White House spokesman Sean Spicer made a surprise cameo appearance at last night's Emmy Awards, which were predictably packed with jabs at President Trump. Some righties are touting the telecast's low initial ratings (potentially the lowest of all time) as proof that "real America" is tired of the lefty glitterati's political bashing -- and that's certainly true of many people. If we're being honest, however, the shift toward online streaming and TV cord-cutting is probably a bigger factor, not to mention the Florida markets that didn't report ratings data due to the after effects of Hurricane Irma. Regardless, Spicer's moment of levity is getting a lot of attention today, mostly because liberals are arguing amongst themselves about whether it's okay to laugh with someone who was a lying-liar-mouthpiece-shill for Donald 'Literally Hitler' Trump, or whatever. Here's the short sketch, in which Spicey embodies the SNL caricature of himself, rolling out a presidential-style podium to jokingly spread propaganda about the show's yuge ratings. Notice the crowd's response:
People are shocked that it's actually him, then seemingly appreciative of the self-deprecation, which can be a redeeming and defusing quality in a person. But some on the Left were horrified -- horrified! -- that their famous pals would "normalize" someone like Spicer by allowing him to appear in their midst to generate a laugh or two, as opposed to being tarred and feathered in a ritualistic orgy of virtue signaling. That's not funny, they complained, stomping their virtual feet:
I actually found this pretty gross. Using the White House to sell egregious lies isn't really funny. https://t.co/IwHF97HZLq— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 18, 2017
Nope! Ari Fleischer makes tons of money as a member of polite society after selling WMD and torture.— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 18, 2017
Hayes' point is especially telling, expanding beyond the 'TRUMP IS NOT NORMAL' critique (which has some merit) to also inject an attack Ari Fleischer's work on behalf of the lyin', torturin' Bush administration. How dare these Republican spokespeople be permitted to rejoin 'polite society' and made a living? The gall. Would any of the people cited above angrily object to proven Democratic liars (including some of their friends and colleagues) getting a guest spot in a similar light-hearted routine? Did they blow a gasket over Kathleen Sebelius and Obama's comedic bit about the Obamacare website debacle? These people lied to our faces about our healthcare, and we're supposed to laugh about it? Shame on blah, blah, blah. This is exactly right:
Gibbs famously confessed he was instructed by Obama to mislead the press about the scale drone program. Apples/oranges? Yes. But both fruit.— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) September 18, 2017
The hands-down winner in the "self-unaware scold" category, however, was a man who has openly bragged about the lies he told in furtherance of his administration's work to, um, send hundreds of billions of dollars to the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism and solidify its previously-illicit nuclear program. The balls on this guy:
Interesting choice by Emmys to let someone joke about demonstrably lying to the American people on behalf of the most powerful person in US— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) September 18, 2017
Perhaps Rhodes was just jealous and bitter that he's never gotten the level of credit and adulation that some political liars deserve. Question, though: Why wasn't Spicer booed off the stage? Allahpundit has some thoughts:
Spicer...benefits from having had conspicuous distance put between himself and POTUS from the day he was hired. Trump brought him on reluctantly, at Reince Priebus’s urging, then seemed to do nothing but grumble about him, right down to his taste in apparel. He famously excluded Spicer when a White House delegation met the Pope, then began holding semi-public auditions for Spicer’s replacement. In the end Spicer ended up effectively demoted, reduced to mostly off-camera briefings in rotation with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And now, unlike virtually everyone else (except Priebus) who was there on day one, he’s gone — of his own volition. Even if you didn’t sympathize with him, it was plain that he wasn’t part of Trump’s inner circle.
He was a mouthpiece for a difficult client prone to undermining him in public statements. Every celebrity in the audience knows what it’s like to work with flacks, how often they’re tasked to go out and push BS they privately know is BS. They may have given Spicer a pass partly for that reason too. And don’t underestimate the fact that he was hapless in the job as a key reason for his image rehabilitation...He never came off as sinister; far more often he was pitiful, which I’m sure is why the gag he was involved in last night referenced the lie about crowd size in his first press briefing after the inauguration. That was Spicer’s defining moment: It was so obviously untrue, and so obviously done to soothe Trump’s fragile ego, that he seemed pathetic more so than malevolent...He humanized himself *and* he made a joke of Trump’s willingness to tell transparent lies by mocking his infamous presser over crowd size. This is as close as Spicer will probably ever get to admitting how ridiculous that was.
Some of that analysis is definitely insightful, but I think he's overthinking it. The fact is, people love a "sneaker upper," the term Tina Fey employs in her autobiography to describe the type of Saturday Night Live sketch in which the object of the show's ridicule actually shows up to make fun of themselves and wink at the audience. Melissa McCarthy and SNL made Spicer famous, and here was, playing along with the joke -- with a surprised and bemused McCarthy sitting right there. The crowd roared at her reaction. It was fun, easy, self-referencing comedy. That's why people clapped and laughed. Some partisans aren't okay with that, hectoring the rest of us with such original declarations as, "this is not okay." But if you hate the politicized life as much as we do, it was fine. Take a bow, Sean. They loved you.