The latest dustup over White House leaks regarding a tasteless comment made by Kelly Sadler about John McCain—which I won’t repeat here—shows that not only is Trump unmoored from typical norms of presidential decency and decorum, his style of personal insult and low humor has spread around the White House like measles.
Chief of Staff John Kelly was the first to come down with a case of lack of empathy—a sociopathic trait that Trump displays in spades—when he got into a contest with a Florida congresswoman last October, saying, “he would not apologize for the false attacks he leveled against Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) . . . when he sought to defend President Trump for his handling of a condolence call to the widow of a fallen soldier,” according to The Washington Post.
Kelly, who has the air of a formerly honest police commissioner that somehow got himself entangled with the Mob, is likely on his way out of the White House—either back to Homeland Security or to the Veterans Administration—and he should be able to reset his moral compass rather easily.
But that leaves others in the Trump kakistocracy to carry out The Boss’s wishes. From low-level staffers like Sadler and Mercedes Schlapp to cabinet secretaries like Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, they are out there lying, misrepresenting and pumping the Swamp full of more lobbyist muck.
AXIOS has reported that Schlapp, a Republican lobbyist wife who carries the title, “strategic communications director,” staunchly defended Sadler during Huckabee Sanders’ dressing down of the communications staff. Schlapp reportedly said to the room, “You can put this on the record: I stand with Kelly Sadler.”
As POLITICO’s “Playbook” e-newsletter asked on May 13:
“How are there two sides to this story? A war hero with a family is struggling with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Why can’t the White House find a way to move on from this extraordinarily embarrassing incident? There are few things easier than apologizing and saying, ‘This is wrong.’”
There are also few things easier than firing a communications aide who makes a dumb remark that creates a huge media undertow, but the Trump Administration can’t seem to bring itself to do it.
How are there two sides to this story? Because in Trump World, with its heavy reliance on “alternate facts” and constant shaping of inconvenient facts into convenient lies and misrepresentations, there is no objective truth. If the Truth Fairy appeared to Huckabee Sanders one night and offered to guide her in her work, she might say, “Thanks, but the real problem is leaks to the fake news media. The President of the United States is making America great again, and he is my lodestar.”
I, for one, would just like to make the White House Honest Again.
Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications, a corporate communications and marketing consultancy, and author of "Carbon Man," a novel about greed.