May 19, 2018

Dying anyway

Offense of the Month, May 2018
Kelly Sadler and the White House communications team take dual honors. I declare two winners of the coveted title this month because the offense was compounded by an unwillingness to disavow it.

The flap began with Ms. Sadler, variously described as a junior staffer in the White House Office of Communications, though she has the title, just since the beginning of May, of Special Assistant to the President. She has become immortal (it’s a limited immortality; the episode will be forgotten in short order) for her comment on Senator John McCain’s opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA. Said Ms. Sadler: “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.” This “joke,” as it was widely described, was promptly leaked, and the news ether crackled worldwide.

The White House then compounded the offense. It refused to apologize, condemning, instead, the leakers. PDT himself (I’ve learned recently that various friends of the President refer to him thus) tweeted that the leakers are “traitors and cowards.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, refused to comment, saying the matter was “internal.”

Perhaps in mitigation, Ms. Sadler is said to have called the Senator’s daughter, Meghan McCain, co-host of the ABC TV show, “The View,” to apologize privately. The New York Times reported that the White House in a written statement issued the same day expressed “respect” for Senator McCain. But a week later, there’s been no formal apology.

Is the Trump base so callous that it would turn on the boss if he, or someone in his name, had said, simply, “that was wrong; it shouldn’t have been said?” Or is the White House so insecure? Even Mitch McConnell thinks a public apology was owed (but perhaps that’s not saying much).

The upshot: the White House discontinued its daily communications office staff meeting. Or at least severely truncated the guest list. I guess it doesn’t matter; it was dying anyway.

I am surprised, though, that the White House hasn’t highlighted its move as heartfelt sensitivity: Reduced attendance, after all, lessens the likelihood of offensive jokes.

Update June 6, 2018:
Kelly Sadler lasted about a month. As of yesterday, June 5, she is no longer working at the White House.