I can’t quite believe we’re on Day Four of this story, but okay.
Sadler did apologize to Meghan McCain by phone. McCain says she asked Sadler if she would apologize publicly too and Sadler allegedly said she would. A source “familiar with the conversation” confirmed that to CNN as well. But that was four days ago and Sadler’s said nothing. “I have not spoken to her since and I assume that it will never come,” said Meghan McCain to ABC of the promised apology. Which is strange. Given the media beating Sadler’s taken and the continued coverage of this story, why not just put out a statement saying, “I made a tasteless joke in a moment of pique, I feel terrible about it, I’m sorry to the senator and to his family”?
Especially since she promised to.
Has the word since come down to Sadler — and others — that no apologies should be issued? It’s just speculation, but Axios’s Jonathan Swan is sourced up in the West Wing and he’s sensing pressure.
Once you’ve worked for Trump for a while you know that the worst thing you can do, the biggest show of weakness, is to apologize. He never does and never did (with one exception — the “Access Hollywood” tape). So staff knows that if they publicly apologize they’re actually MORE likely to incur Trump’s wrath than if they just move on…
I asked a senior administration official about the phenomenon this morning. Here’s how he explained it:
“Not apologizing is a core operating principle for Trump. The basic belief is that you never actually get ‘credit’ — from the Left, the media, political opponents, etc. — for apologizing, so why do it? Even the Access Hollywood response video included a defiant Trump going after the ‘actions’ of Bill Clinton and ‘bullying of victims’ by Hillary, and ended with ‘See you at the debate!'”
Swan hears that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is so irritated that Sadler’s comment leaked in the first place that she doesn’t want the leak further “validated” with any public apologies. When deputy press secretary Raj Shah was pressed about it at today’s briefing, all he’d say is that “This is an internal matter, it’s being addressed internally, and I don’t have anything further to add.” So that’s where the communications team stands.
But what about people outside the comms team? Here’s a curious exchange on Tapper’s show with John Bolton yesterday. Bolton is complimentary of McCain and wishes him all the best — but when asked to condemn Sadler’s remark, he simply won’t do it.
Bolton's CNN interview concludes with him refusing to condemn a White House aide's tasteless joke about John McCain's cancer. He won't even acknowledge that the White House has an obligation to apologize. pic.twitter.com/eO7ZB301Vp
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 13, 2018
If Swan understands the unspoken White House rule that apologies are always bad, Bolton surely understands it too. *Is* it unspoken in this case, though, or has POTUS let it be known, especially to Sadler, that they shouldn’t apologize to McCain or else? It’s unusual, almost inexplicable, that Sadler would cancel a statement she was planning after promising McCain’s family that it was coming unless pressure is being applied. The only newsy thing left in this story is the possibility that her joking about McCain dying isn’t a firing offense but apologizing for the joke might be. That would be a nifty illustration of what Charlie Sykes describes as Trump’s “crab-bucket moral universe.” Sadler may genuinely feel sorry, she may genuinely want to express it — but she’s not allowed out of the bucket.
Whether she’s been gagged by POTUS or is stubbornly refusing an apology for her own reasons, though, it’s obviously true that Trump doesn’t think she needs to say anything. If he did, she would have said it days ago. Here’s McCain this morning on “The View” followed by Lindsey Graham yesterday. “I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate, that’s not who we are,” he laments. Heh. But it is who they are. That’s the point!
.@MeghanMcCain on the lack of response from the White House on remarks made by aide Kelly Sadler about Sen. John McCain: “People are going to have to answer for their own conscience.” https://t.co/f8u2wc159S pic.twitter.com/4CGavjgnVt
— The View (@TheView) May 14, 2018
"I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate"
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 13, 2018
Update: Is the Sadler leaker a traitor?