If there was any doubt about the administration of Republican President Donald J. Trump lacking a moral compass, consider the latest controversy involving a White House staffer and Congress’ elder statesman Sen. John McCain.
Kelly Sadler, a pipsqueak special assistant to the president, had no qualms about denigrating McCain, R-Ariz., a true American hero, because she knew her boss would not punish her.
Sadler was right. Rather than suffer any consequences for her disrespectful remark, she has enjoyed the unwavering support of the White House.
Indeed, President Trump, who has led by example when it comes to dealing with his political critics and perceived enemies, called West Wing leakers “traitors and cowards” after Sadler’s crass comment was shared with reporters.
In a tweet, the president, whose 2016 campaign was marked by his no-holds-barred verbal attacks on his primary and general election competitors, said the “leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look us look as bad as possible.”
But he also had this warning for the leakers: “We will find out who they are!”
What did the special assistant to the president say about the 81-year-old veteran officeholder that has prompted widespread bipartisan condemnation?
During a closed-door White House communications staff meeting, Sadler said McCain’s opposition to Trump’s pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel, “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.”
McCain was diagnosed in July with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and left Washington in December. Few political observers expect him to return.
The presidential aide has not publicly apologized for her insensitive remark, and there’s no indication she has privately reached out to the veteran lawmaker.
She did call McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, a co-host of ABC’s “The View,” to apologize. Meghan McCain told ABC News that during their conversation, she had asked Sadler to apologize publicly and that the Trump aide had agreed.
However, there has been no such expression of regret from any administration official.
That’s why Trump’s pledge to go after the leakers is so troubling. The president apparently believes it’s more important to find out who talked to reporters rather than to deal with the substance of the remark.
His inability – or unwillingness – to tell right from wrong should trouble all Americans, even his supporters who have shown blind allegiance to him.
It isn’t just that McCain is terminally ill and recognizes that his time is short.
There is something unholy about a young woman showing such a lack of basic human decency.
But no one should be surprised at Sad- ler’s disrespect of McCain. After all, Trump has had no qualms about personally attacking the senator.
In 2015, the billionaire real-estate developer from New York City criticized McCain’s military record during an appearance at the Family Leadership Summit.
Trump and McCain had traded barbs earlier in the week after the senator said the first-time candidate’s controversial comments about immigrants had “fired up the crazies” at a rally in Phoenix. Trump retorted McCain was “a dummy” who graduated at the bottom of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.
During the Family Leadership Summit, the moderator, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, pressed Trump on his description of McCain as “a dummy.”
Luntz pointed out that the senator is a “war hero.”
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump quipped. “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
The comment drew some boos from the audience and quick condemnation from rivals for the GOP nomination for president.
The shot at McCain was especially noteworthy because Trump avoided military service and, thus was spared being sent to Vietnam, by securing five deferments – four for college and one for bone spurs in his heel.
By contrast, McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. He spent 51/2 years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he was repeatedly tortured.
It was McCain’s experience as a victim of torture that prompted him to oppose the president’s pick for CIA director, Haspel, a veteran spy.
She was confirmed last week and sworn in Monday, but not before a hard-hitting Senate hearing that focused on her role in the spy agency’s harsh interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on America’s homeland.