BOOK REVIEW: The Briefing By Sean Spicer
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Spicey is back. The beleaguered and often mocked White House press secretary had, most likely, been forgotten by many since it’s been more than a year since he resigned from his post and a lot of upheaval has happened since. However, in his new book, The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President, Sean Spicer takes us back to those highly publicized days behind the podium, on Saturday Night Live, on Air Force One, and in the West Wing. Regardless of how you feel, or don’t feel at all, about Sean Spicer, this book is actually pretty well done for what it is. It is a nice look at the early months of the Trump administration and gives some insight into the election process beyond campaign speeches and who visited Wisconsin and who didn’t.
When you open a Sean Spicer book, no matter your political affiliation, you might expect a lot of talk about how people were so mean to him and woe is me and all that jazz, but there’s not a ton of that in this book. Spicer talks about what he views as hypocritical actions by the press, but he also beats himself up a bit about how he mangled certain situations, specifically the whole gas attack/Holocaust Center issue. I saw one review that said “Spicer blames everyone but himself” but they clearly didn’t read the whole book. Spicer spends several pages on this incident and blames no one but himself. He openly admits he had several chances to dig himself out and only made it worse, that it as on no one but him,et cetera. Hate him all you want, but at least he’s seemingly self-aware on some issues. Because Spicer is reflective in this book, it makes it a much more enjoyable experience than many of his press briefings were.
I think the aspect of this book I enjoyed most was Spicer’s insight into campaigns, both the presidential and congressional he’s worked on through the years, and his dive into how the RNC used data to so specifically target potential voters. As someone who’s interested in politics, it was fascinating and presented pretty factually. It was also interesting to hear the drama behind the debate schedule and how much the RNC could and couldn’t control. People think debates just happen and don’t realize the hassle that goes into them, like negotiating what podium goes where and who gets to speak and for how long. It was these things, the behind the scenes of politics and the presidency, that most intrigued me about the book. While it was nice to hear that Sean Spicer was actually a person with a family and a childhood, I don’t think he did himself any favors by constantly talking about sailing and boats. But maybe that’s just me, someone who is unimpressed by your sad sob stories about how your fathers yacht-selling business suffered in the off years.
One huge critic I have of this book is its issues with chronology. I understand, and agree with, a preface starting with his resignation, a sort of “how did I end up here?” moment, but the book bounces around in time so much it’s hard to keep up. Even as someone who was pretty cognizant of the timeline of Spicer’s White House tenure, I struggled to understand where I was in time or place as he talked about different happenings in the press room and then went back to his childhood or to meeting his wife and then to one campaign he worked on then the White House again and then back to a different campaign. If you’re going to read this book, and I do think it has something to offer, try not to get too bogged down in the timeline because you’ll get frustrated pretty quickly.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It wasn’t a “woe is me” book, and it wasn’t overly fawning about his love for Donald Trump. It had some moments that were better than others, but if you’re interested in an inside look at the early months of the Trump White House, this will certainly do the trick.
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