The first commandment for public relations officers (aka communications directors) is: “Don’t become the story you’re trying to manage.” So, perhaps shortly before his move to run communications at United Airlines, it’s instructive to grease the White House slipway for Sean Spicer.
He makes huge mistakes of the “even Hitler” never stooped to using chemical weapons on “his own people” variety. But it’s the countless little mistakes – the “Joe” Trudeau, or the Aussie PM called “Malcolm Trumball” – that have sapped Spicer so. He has become a running gag. If he served a popular boss who was pursuing popular policies, that might be survivable. But Spicer is really Little Gag doing Big Gag’s botched work. He’s a bargain-basement version of his boss.
When he goes, Trump will need a grey, competent, utterly forgettable secretary in charge of the press. The difficulty, out on the Trump right of politics, is knowing whether such a tedious paragon exists.
The longtime editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Ian MacGregor, becomes its editor emeritus, charged with “acting as a bridge between the editorial and commercial arms of the business”. (Which is what I thought modern editors did already.) MacGregor’s deputy, Allister Heath, takes over while remaining “head of business”. One foot forward, one tap-dancing on the spot. And simple old questions of yesteryear – such as, who edits this paper? – disappear further into the mists of emeritus murk.