White House aide Kelly Sadler is the object of this week’s outrage mob. The cycle is well-known: Dig through someone’s past or present comments whether public or private, find something that someone, somewhere finds offensive or can spin as offensive, and then whip up a media frenzy demanding a public shaming, which usually includes public shunning and the loss of a job. It makes the freedom of expression necessary for government based upon “reflection and choice” impossible to say nothing of the corrosive effects of trust and civility.
The phenomena puts me in mind of Robespierre’s infamous defense of revolutionary excesses: “Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country…” Apparently Robespierre ethics apply today.
With regard to Ms. Sadler, according to an unconfirmed, leaked report says that during a private, internal White House meeting about Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA she said that Senator John McCain’s reported opposition didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway.” Here’s a flavor of the reporting:
NBC News: “Lawmaker anger builds after White House aide mocks ‘dying’ McCain.”
The Hill: “White House Official Mocked ‘dying’ McCain at internal meeting.”
The New York Post: “Kelly Sadler reportedly mocked ‘dying’ John McCain during meeting.”
And so on.
I have had several conversations with sensible, Trump-supporting people both in and out of politics suggesting that Sadler should be fired. I challenged them. Without exception, they all believed, based on the reporting, that Sadler, a perfectly friendly, conscientious person in my limited experience, had made her comments in public and that she had said far more than what is reported. Knowing that requires that you read the actual story past the headline. And the headlines are willful distortions.
Based on what has been reported, Sadler took no shots at McCain the man, McCain the senator, and certainly not at his present, unfortunate condition. When I explained to them that her remarks were at a private meeting and quoted what she is reported to have said, every single one of them retreated from their initial insistence on her firing. And every single one of them made the obvious point, that her comments did not constitute mockery and that people have a reasonable expectation that private conversations remain private. Sanity returned – but only with information that the anti-Trump media is both suppressing and misrepresenting.
Both Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and White House Strategic Communications Director Mercedes Schlapp have said as much. And they’re right. There’s a scoundrel in this story and it isn’t Kelly Sadler. It’s the leaker who violated the trust of the president, the American people for whom he or she works, and everyone else in the room at the time.