With Trump and this White House, it’s dangerous to assume we’ve hit rock bottom in common decency and civility. But it’s hard to imagine how these clowns can go any lower after White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to offer an apology or regret over a widely reported remark by an aide that dismissed Senator John McCain’s opposition to the nominee for CIA director by saying, “He’s dying anyway.”
“I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting,” Ms. Sanders said. Asked why she would not simply apologize to Mr. McCain, she said, “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”
But she denied that President Trump, who in 2015 said that Mr. McCain was “not a war hero” because he spent more than five years as a prisoner in North Vietnam and that he preferred “people who weren’t captured,” had set a tone of disrespect. “We have a respect for all Americans and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, both in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country, every single day,” Ms. Sanders said.
Trump’s sneering put-down of McCain notwithstanding, the Arizona senator is hardly the only target of Trump’s disrespect, so Sanders’ words are laughable. He’s not even the only Republican.
But if Trump has not set a tone of disrespect for McCain in his White House, how did this happen?
About 20 people were in the room; some gasped while a few laughed, according to some who were there, but no one challenged Ms. Sadler at the time. Some colleagues said afterward that they were unhappy she made the remark, and the White House issued a written statement Thursday expressing respect for Mr. McCain. But Ms. Sanders confirmed that Ms. Sadler was still on the job.
If this were, indeed, an unsubstantiated leak from an anonymous source, Sanders would be on firm ground.
The problem is that the aide, Kelly Sadler, apologized to Meghan McCain, the senator’s daughter — an apology that was apparently not accepted:
Mr. McCain’s family expressed astonishment and outrage after the remark became known. “May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren,” his wife, Cindy McCain, wrote to Ms. Sadler on Twitter.
Meghan McCain, the senator’s daughter, responded on “The View,” the ABC television show where she is a host. “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in where that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” she said.
Ms. Sadler has made no public comment but called Meghan McCain to apologize.
Politics is by no means a tea party. But this White House, from the president on down, practice politics that makes a sewer smell like lilacs.