Sean Spicer admits he got off to a rocky start as White House press secretary. (AP: Andrew Harnik)
The first thing you notice when you walk into the White House press briefing room is how small it is.
One of the most familiar spaces in the world, care of the daily media conferences and those countless US political TV dramas, is really quite poky. Underwhelming even.
But this compact room has been the scene of an epic battle of wills for the last 18 months between the Trump administration and the White House press corps.
Between a President who has declared the media “the enemy of the people” and journalists determined to hold him to account.
For the first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency, a key combatant was White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
A man whose tenure, by his own admission, got off to a rocky start when he called a Saturday afternoon media briefing to angrily dispute reports the Trump inauguration crowds had been on the small side.
Now, Spicer has written a book to give his side of the tumultuous story and to settle a few scores along the way.
The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President paints a generally positive portrait of Mr Trump but also gives us a valuable insight into what it is like working for the most unconventional occupant of the Oval Office.
On Donald Trump
Mr Spicer paints the President as a master of disruption and a man for whom the normal rules of politics don’t apply: “He is a unicorn, riding a unicorn over a rainbow.”
He marvels at how Mr Trump has managed to survive so many supposedly career-ending moments: the “grab them by the pussy” episode, declaring Senator John McCain wasn’t a war hero, making up policy on the run, the list goes on.
Mr Spicer almost joyfully notes the President, “would cross the line, jump over the line and dance merrily back and forth over the line”.
He admits the job of keeping up with the President proved exhausting and writes of a number of occasions when he was accosted in public over his high profile job.
On the inauguration crowd dispute
Of all of Mr Spicer’s embarrassing moments, this was the standout.
It started with an early morning phone call from Mr Trump insisting Mr Spicer immediately tackle reports the inauguration crowds were smaller than those for Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
Mr Spicer admits berating the media in an ill-fitting suit “made a bad first impression” and concedes even the President was unhappy with his podium performance.
Looking back, he realises this was the “beginning of the end”, although he did get some laughs from comedian Melissa McCarthy’s Saturday Night Live skit on his day from hell.
On the tweeting
The job of White House press secretary these days is in many cases superfluous, particularly when it comes to the President speaking for himself on Twitter.
“Keeping an eye out for his early-morning, late-night and weekend tweets was part of my new world order,” Mr Spicer notes.
Mr Spicer reveals tweets sent during business hours were generally drafted by or filtered through the White House social media director.
All the rest were pure and unfiltered Trump, much to the annoyance of his press secretary.
Mr Spicer said the President’s use of Twitter was a double-edged sword.
“Sometimes he’s cutting up the opposition and sometimes he’s cutting up his own best messages,” he wrote.
On White House correspondents
Mr Spicer doesn’t waste the opportunity to hit back at his press briefing bete noires, of which there are many.
He takes particular aim at CNN’s Jim Acosta — “a carnival barker … grandstanding for the camera” — and he also takes swipes at the New York Times, the Washington Post and Politico.
Mr Spicer laments many White House correspondents were “trying to undermine and embarrass the administration at every turn” and takes particular umbrage with reporters who, he says, tried to make him out as a liar.
In the end, Mr Spicer concedes his relationship with the media was “radioactive” but he insists it was largely the fault of the fourth estate.
The end of the road
The book begins with Mr Spicer’s final days at the White House.
In late July 2017, he was summoned to the Oval Office to be told by Mr Trump the administration was being “killed in the media” and things had to change.
He suggested fellow New Yorker, the fast-talking Anthony Scaramucci, was needed to more aggressively prosecute the President’s case and plug the stream of White House leaks.
The next day, Mr Spicer tendered his resignation: “It was time to go.”
It’s not hard though to detect the glee in Mr Spicer’s portrayal of Mr Scaramucci’s brief and disastrous reign as communications director.
Mr Scaramucci was out after 10 days. At least Spicer lasted for six months.
Was it revealing?
Those wanting a tell-all account of life inside the Trump White House will need to wait for another book.
While Mr Spicer is slightly critical of some aspects of the President’s behaviour, he clearly still admires the “charismatic but erratic” Commander-in-Chief.
And while Mr Spicer makes some valid points about a media obsessed with “gotcha moments” and “palace intrigue” at the expense of serious policy analysis, much of the book amounts to an extended payback session for journalists simply trying to do their job of sifting through White House fact and fiction.