As many in the political press on Friday seized on a comment about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reportedly made in a private White House meeting the day before, critics condemned the day-long news frenzy at the end of a week in which President Trump—among other offenses—furthered his attacks on immigrants, gave away the store to Big Pharma, gutted protections for student borrowers, and urged the Senate to confirm Gina Haspel, who oversaw the torture of human beings and then destroyed the video evidence of that torture, as the next director of the CIA.
According to a report leaked to The Hill on Thursday, as staffers discussed the likelihood that the Senate would confirm Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel—who ran a CIA black site in the early 2000s where detainees were tortured, and participated in covering up the evidence of torture—the discussion turned to John McCain's opposition to Haspel. The senator had issued a statement saying Haspel's "refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying."
"It doesn't matter, he's dying anyway," one aide, Kelly Sadler, reportedly said.
The leaked conversation provoked widespread outcry in Washington among politicians as well as members of the media, with questions about whether Sadler would be fired swirling at the White House press briefing on Friday, nearly 24 hours after the comment was first reported.
Reporter: Meghan McCain wondered aloud why Kelly Salder still has a job at the White House, does she still have a job?
Sanders: "I'm not going to comment on an internal staff meeting." pic.twitter.com/d0Q2ZUJm7A
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 11, 2018
A few observers noted the disconnect between a political media up in arms over a comment made by a special communications assistant to the president in a closed-door meeting, versus public remarks made by high-profile Republican and Democratic senators this week in which they dismissed Haspel's history of torture, as well as other egregious Trump policy proposals and actions that have been largely ignored by those same pundits throughout the week.
In just one example, CNN commentator Chris Cillizza provoked ire after tweeting that Sadler's comment made him "angry and depressed about our politics."
Imagine being "angry and depressed about our politics" not because an illiberal wannabe tyrant & his gang of crooks are imposing tangible suffering on thousands of vulnerable people ... but because someone said a mean about St. John McCain.
— David Roberts (@drvox) May 11, 2018
“Our politics” = what a Republican White House aide said about a Republican senator because the Republican senator opposes torture and the Republican president doesn’t. https://t.co/U0KPBXYcV3
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) May 11, 2018
Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time Senate colleague of McCain's, pronounced Sadler's remark as the moment when "decency...hit rock bottom with this administration."
Others were less convinced it would be quite so easy to pick the "rock bottom" of the Trump era.
Can we stop saying the Trump administration has hit moral rock bottom every time they do something terrible? There's no bottom. They are in a moral free-fall.
— Denizcan James (@MrFilmkritik) May 11, 2018