There’s a Bible verse that says, “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” I thought about this when I read that a White House aide had flippantly dismissed John McCain’s views about torture, reasoning that “he’s dying anyway.”
This is callous and inhumane. And rather than being a mistake, it’s a classic Washington gaffe, in that it betrays what is really in one’s heart. It leaves you scratching your head, asking the question: What kind of person thinks like this, let alone, talks like this?
Apparently White House aide Kelly Sadler, a special assistant to the president who previously worked for the Washington Times.
Sadler’s sadistic comments created a media firestorm, and she has reportedly apologized to Meghan McCain. Anyone who talks for a living tends to be forgiving when she misspeaks, but some things are so reprehensible they can’t be taken back. Perhaps it was a joke? If so, it was a revealing one.
Her suggestion that the senior senator from Arizona is, because of his battle with brain cancer, irrelevant had to do with McCain’s decision to oppose President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel as CIA director.
During her testimony, Haspel said she would not restart the so-called “enhanced interrogation program.” Additionally, she said that she would not allow the CIA to do something she deemed immoral, even if it was legal, at the president’s request. But Haspel also defended her past role in enhanced interrogation, prompting McCain to conclude that "her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying."
One could respectfully disagree with McCain’s position; Sadler disrespectfully disagreed.
God knows John McCain has earned the right—both by virtue of having been a P.O.W. and by virtue of his membership in the world’s greatest deliberative body—to hold this opinion.
I probably don’t need to recount the years of torture McCain endured at the “Hanoi Hilton,” or the fact that he refused early release, knowing that it would be dishonorable, a violation of the established code of conduct; or the fact that, because he was the son of an admiral who would be accepting preferential treatment, his release would be a p.r. coup for the North Vietnamese and a moral-breaker for Americans held captive.
It would be wrong to mock anyone battling brain cancer, but it’s especially unseemly when that person has sacrificed more for his country than you or I ever will.
Of course, Sadler isn’t alone. On Fox Business, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, referred to McCain as “Songbird John,” a bogus allegation that McCain collaborated with his captures.
A few days ago, I wrote a piece defending McCain against similar attacks on Twitter. In response, I got an email from an old friend, saying: “There are Men who have earned the highest military honor who have said John McCain is ‘no man of honor’ and ‘is an embarrassment to the Naval Uniform and flag on it.’ Didn’t like your piece and the STFU comment at all.” (The “STFU” headline was written by my editor, but it was not an inaccurate representation of my views.)
Sadly, this is a trend. What we are witnessing is a microcosm of some of the problems we are seeing in the Republican Party—and in America, in general. We do not have reverence or respect for life or for the vulnerable. We do not respect our elders. Nor do we have reverence or respect for sacrifice or service. We prioritize politics over decency and humanity.
This is why I think Donald Trump should fire Sadler, today. And if that’s too heavy a lift, I have a more modest request: I would like to see Sadler read this account of the treatment McCain endured in Vietnam. That would likely be as close to torture as she will ever experience.
Of course, it’s really hard for Trump to fire Sadler since he also mocked McCain’s service, saying he’s “not a war hero.” When a leader says things such as this, underlings get the sense that they can do it, too. This comment wasn’t random; it was a predictable result of a debased culture where people really think this way.
Trump should (but won’t) correct this by apologizing for what he said, too.
In Vietnam, John McCain endured a fate worse than death, but instead of parades, he must endure mockery as he prepares for his final journey to his eternal home.
The ultimate irony is that it isn’t liberal hippies or young anti-war protesters who are disrespecting him—it’s members of an allegedly conservative Republican administration who are spitting on this P.O.W.
How did we get like this?