The degradation of public discourse continued yesterday. After a former military senior officer sneered at John McCain’s years of brutal treatment as a POW, one White House official decided to laugh at his current medical condition. Kelly Sadler joked in a meeting that McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel doesn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway.” Geeeeeez:
A White House official mocked Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis at an internal meeting on Thursday, a day after the Arizona Republican announced his opposition to President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel.
Special assistant Kelly Sadler made the derisive comments during a closed-door White House meeting of about two-dozen communications staffers on Thursday morning.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to a source familiar with the remarks at the meeting.
For what it’s worth, apparently Sadler’s “joke” went over like the proverbial flatus in church:
White House aide Kelly Sadler responded to Sen. John McCain’s opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director by saying Thursday morning that “he’s dying anyway,” a White House official told CNN.
The official said Sadler, who is in charge of surrogate communications, meant it as a joke, “but it fell flat.”
For those inclined to see this as a “fake news” story, the White House told The Hill that Sadler had called the McCains to apologize:
“We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time,” the White House said in a statement to The Hill.
Sadler did not respond to a request for comment and the White House did not make her available to The Hill. A source later told The Hill that Sadler called the senator’s daughter Meghan McCain to apologize.
If Cindy McCain’s Twitter feed is any indication, Sadler’s call didn’t resolve the issue:
@kellysadler45 May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren.
— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) May 10, 2018
Source tells me Sadler called Meghan McCain today. And that it didn’t go so well. https://t.co/ZdAgD001jk
— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) May 10, 2018
Nor should it. This should be a firing offense. Who does this? Who jokes about people in the process of fighting cancer while their families are gathering around to support them in what might be their final days? Just a few days ago, we got an earful from defenders of the Trump administration — and rightfully so — over Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ treatment at the White House Correspondents Dinner because the comic made ugly and vicious remarks about her appearance. That pales in comparison to what the White House dishes out, at least internally.
John McCain isn’t above criticism, not even now. He’s engaging in the political process in regard to Gina Haspel, and his position is open for debate, especially given the inconsistency between his opposition to Haspel and his support for John Brennan, who was much farther up the CIA food chain during the enhanced-interrogation program. His memoir releases are intended to spark debate and controversy. I still think McCain-Feingold (BCRA) was an unconstitutional and corrosive attempt to defend incumbency, and I’m not shy about sharing that. But it is possible to criticize McCain while respecting his service, and it is possible to rebut McCain without dancing on his soon-to-be grave.
The White House owes its own apology to McCain and his family. If we lived in an era where shame had any meaning, Sadler would already be out the door. Those days, unfortunately, are long past all across the political spectrum.