No ex­cuse for hard-hearted in­sult by aide

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - — York Dis­patch, The As­so­ci­ated Press

It is be­yond lu­di­crous that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s White House re­fuses to even ac­knowl­edge, let alone apol­o­gize for, the hard-hearted in­sult slung at Ari­zona Sen. John McCain last week by one of its aides.

What it wasn’t, un­for­tu­nately, was sur­pris­ing.

The name-caller-in-chief hasn’t just low­ered the bar for ci­vil­ity; he hasn’t just knocked that bar to the ground; he has dug a pit and buried it.

Trump’s bel­liger­ence, mean­spirit­ed­ness, child­ish­ness and testi­ness — broad­cast in pub­lic re­marks and via so­cial me­dia — have set a tone of school­yard nas­ti­ness that per­me­ates the White House and, in­creas­ingly, the na­tion.

The aide in ques­tion is Kelly Sadler, a spe­cial as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent. While dis­cussing McCain’s op­po­si­tion to Trump’s nom­i­nee to lead the CIA, Sadler said of the se­na­tor, who has been bat­tling stage four brain cancer, “It doesn’t mat­ter; he’s dy­ing any­way.”

Maybe Sadler was be­ing an icy-veined cal­cu­la­tor; maybe it was a bad ex­am­ple of gal­lows hu­mor. What­ever, when the in­sult reached the pub­lic, the White House should have quickly re­nounced the com­ment and apol­o­gized.

Sadler seemed to sense this. Ac­cord­ing to The Hill, she called McCain’s daugh­ter, Meghan McCain, to do just that.

No such con­tri­tion from the White House, which re­sponded to queries about the com­ment by is­su­ing a gen­eral state­ment prais­ing McCain for his mil­i­tary ser­vice, then cir­cling the wag­ons.

White House spokesper­son Sarah Huck­abee Sanders de­clined re­peat­edly dur­ing a Fri­day press con­fer­ence to pro­vide an ad­min­is­tra­tion re­sponse to the com­ment, of­fer­ing a pile of twad­dle along the lines of, “I’m not go­ing to val­i­date a leak one way or an­other out of an in­ter­nal staff meet­ing.”

The White House has clearly learned noth­ing from its mis­han­dling of the Rob Porter af­fair, in which a for­mer top aide con­tin­ued to work closely with the pres­i­dent even though he could not ob­tain top se­cu­rity clear­ance ow­ing to tes­ti­mony of spousal abuse from pre­vi­ous wives.

In that case, the ad­min­is­tra­tion hemmed, hawed and har­rumphed for days, pump­ing oxy­gen into a story that would likely have suc­cumbed to a tra­di­tional news-cy­cle death fol­low­ing a timely ac­knowl­edge­ment and apol­ogy.

Such is the case again, with calls in­creas­ing for Sadler’s dis­missal as the White House re­fused to ad­dress the is­sue.

The Washington Post may have iden­ti­fied the rea­son be­hind the re­cal­ci­trance: “The White House prob­a­bly thinks it can­not pun­ish Kelly Sadler for her aw­ful com­ment about John McCain be­cause Pres­i­dent Trump has also said nasty things about McCain. It may worry that show­ing her the door would set a trou­bling prece­dent for a pres­i­dent who may one day cross a very sim­i­lar line.”

“May one day”? How about, “has al­ready re­peat­edly”?

This is a pres­i­dent that can’t help sling­ing in­sults at friends and foes alike. (McCain, as the Post noted, is al­ready on his size­able hit list, hav­ing been in­sulted for his POW sta­tus.) And this is a Repub­li­can Party that coun­te­nances such be­hav­ior.

Where is the mo­ral out­rage that fol­lowed then-can­di­date Barack Obama say­ing small­town vot­ers cling to guns and religion, or then-can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton re­fer­ring to Trump sup­port­ers as a basket of de­plorables? These were, af­ter all, be­nign com­ments when com­pared with char­ac­ter­iz­ing Mex­i­cans as rapists and mur­der­ers, de­scrib­ing per­sonal acts of sex­ual as­sault, or in­sult­ing a sit­ting se­na­tor bat­tling an al­most cer­tainly ter­mi­nal prog­no­sis.

And where are the gate­keep­ers of first lady Me­la­nia Trump’s new “#BeBest” cam­paign, with its aim to re­duce cy­ber-bul­ly­ing and nas­ti­ness?

There have been a few voices in the wilder­ness, such as that of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, but they have been mild and in­ef­fec­tive.

The in­abil­ity of the pres­i­dent to gov­ern him­self civilly — and of his aides, friends and fam­ily to im­press upon him the wis­dom of do­ing so — has contributed to an in­creas­ingly dis­re­spect­ful po­lit­i­cal cul­ture . and can only spill out into the cul­ture at large.

It is a sad re­flec­tion on the White House, its cul­ture, its staff and its leader.

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