Village Voice 04.19.2017 : Page 6

6 cers and anonymous of icials, gives re-porters what they need (the getting on the phone part) while giving his bosses what they want (the yelling part). Last week offered less headline-grabbing but more illustrative moments than just the Holocaust mess. It saw sev-eral stunning reversals of key policy positions Trump had advanced during his campaign. What might have been a short, newsless week was anything but for Spicer, even if the whole Assad-Hitler thing had never happened. After bashing NATO on the campaign trail and giving agita to European allies, Trump changed his tune. “I said it was obsolete,” he said during a visit from NATO secretary-general Jens Stolten-berg. “It’s no longer obsolete.” Here’s how that played out in the press room: “I think, respectfully, I think you can look at what you’re refer-ring to as a shift in a lot of ways,” Spicer told the press corps. “And by that I mean I saw a couple instances with respect to NATO being one of those shifts, and if April 19 April 25, 2017 you look at what’s happened, it’s those entities or individuals in some cases or issues evolving toward the president’s position.” VILLAGE VOICE.com WORDS FAIL HIM from p4 the phone, or to get him to answer ques-tions. The only problem was he was sure to call and yell about the piece afterward. That, in capsule, decodes Spicer’s re-silience as a press spokesman: In a White House that has made beating up the fourth estate of icial policy, Spicer, along with a number of other press of i-SPOTILLUSTRATION BY TED MCKEEVER How many people can stand at a podium and tell the world that our president’s positions never change — it’s the rest of the world that changes? Writing about Spicer’s rhetorical gymnastics in the Atlantic , David A. Gra-ham asks what the role of a presidential spokesman could possibly be: It is, he of-fers, “surely to defend whatever the president says his policy is right now. If even his own spokesman can’t under-stand and explain that, how is anyone else to do so?” The answer is: Nobody can. But how many people can stand at a podium and tell the world that our president’s posi-tions never change — it’s the rest of the world that changes? The fact is, the White House press brie ing is important not so much for whatever new information might emerge from it. Serious reporters save their questions for the seemingly end-less parade of off-the-record interviews White House insiders are giving about everything from the president’s TV-watching habits to deep policy divides to in ighting among rival camps in the West Wing. The brie ing is more like a formal record of what the administra-tion’s of icial line is on any given major topic at any given moment. So what happens when there is no of-icial position? Or the of icial position is self-contradictory? You get a spokesman STREET SCENE PHOTOGRAPH BY LUC KORDAS

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