In their attempts to show you how much they love him, the media can almost make you hate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank said in his weekend column that he recently wandered around Sedona “for hours” thinking about McCain.
“As I write this, there are tears on my cheeks,” wrote Milbank, because nothing is real in the media unless an adult man is crying in public.
The New York Times opinion page on Tuesday ran the headline, “Maybe We Don’t Deserve John McCain.”
The national media’s infatuation with McCain goes back decades (other than a brief stall in 2008 for some reason) but it’s especially foamy now – not because he has brain cancer, but because someone in the Trump White House, who no one had ever heard of until last week, made an unfunny joke in private about McCain dying.
The story first broke on May 10 and cable news hasn’t stopped talking about it since.
Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a show the serves no other purpose than to get the president to tweet about its hosts so they can pretend to be victims, Joe Scarborough said Trump should publicly apologize for the comment – a comment which happened during a meeting he wasn’t even present at, and which, again, was supposed to be private.
“Mr. President, you should apologize for your staff member saying that,” said Scarborough. “You are responsible. The buck stops with you.”
The comment about McCain was made by Kelly Sadler, who is said to be in charge of writing talking points for Trump supporters who go on TV.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler reportedly said, in reference to McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for CIA director. (McCain likely won't be present for any Senate votes on Haspel, as he undergoes cancer treatment in Arizona.)
Given Sadler’s role writing memos for TV shows, which is no doubt of utmost importance to national security and deserving of our watchdog media’s undivided attention, reporters and pundits responded to the incident by spending the last week heralding the unmatched heroism of McCain and pressuring the White House to apologize.
The day after news broke of Sadler’s comment, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked 11 questions about it.
Among them were, “Does the White House not think that you need to condemn these remarks, or comment, or issue an apology?” from the Associated Press; “Does the president regret what he said during the campaign about John McCain, when he said he wasn’t a war hero?” from ABC News; and, “Wouldn't that be easier for the White House just to apologize?” from CNN.
Sanders said only that she wouldn’t “validate a leak, one way or the other, out of an internal staff meeting.”
It was barely newsworthy when now-ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” or now-former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump was a “dope,” two comments that were also reportedly made in private last year.
But at least Tillerson and McMaster were in high-ranking positions that influence policy.
Sadler is by all accounts a complete nobody, relegated to sending out emails about how to best answer questions from Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Anderson Cooper.
MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace dedicated the first 15 minutes of her afternoon show last Friday to her personal disgust with the White House over Sadler’s comment, using it to rehash the most exhausted attacks.
“For a West Wing proud of its alternative facts and boastful that voters seemingly forgave the president’s transgressions on Election Day by voting for the country’s first ever self-described grabber of women’s private parts,” said Wallace, “it’s become futile to speculate on what might constitute noteworthy or even newsworthy evidence of the depravity of the Trump West Wing.”
She went on to invite MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, who ran McCain’s 2008 campaign for president, to yell a monologue on McCain’s greatness and call Trump “small and vile and mean.”
Funny how we didn’t hear these tributes to McCain from Schmidt, the New York Times, and Dana Milbank until they could be used to hurt Trump, when a low-level nobody in the White House made a private joke that leaked to the public.
But the show that the media are putting on isn’t about McCain. It’s about forcing the White House into submission over nothing.