Democrats Behaving Badly

Democrats Behaving Badly

From the Weekly Standard:

For some reason, I find myself thinking a lot about Paul Wellstone’s funeral lately. A popular and outspoken liberal Democrat, the Minnesota senator died tragically in a plane crash just weeks before the 2002 election. Not surprisingly, emotions ran high, culminating in a nationally televised funeral that morphed into a raucous political pep rally.

Some of the speeches took on a harsh partisan tone and the crowd booed Trent Lott, then the Senate Republican leader, when he entered the arena at the University of Minnesota for the service. Afterward, some of the organizers apologized for the tone of the event, but the damage had been done. Democrats assumed that former Vice Presidential Walter Mondale would be able to ride the tide of emotion and hold Wellstone’s seat, but Mondale wound up losing to Republican Norm Coleman (who would, in turn, lose to comedian Al Franken six years later). Many observers blamed the backlash to the funeral at least in part for his defeat.

Which brings us to the latest iteration of over-the-top political theatricality—last week’s hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Democrats are understandably concerned about the nomination, but the histrionics of senators Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, and even a few who are not running for president, suggest that he Democrats have a deeper problem: Demagoguery is a helluva drug and some Democrats apparently cannot help themselves from over-reaching, even it undermines their case.

That may not be decisive in the upcoming midterms, but it poses a longer-term problem for the party, especially in 2020. And it seems awfully familiar to those of us who watched what has happened to Republicans and conservatives over the last decade.

The Oddity of That Anonymous NYT Op-Ed

The Oddity of That Anonymous NYT Op-Ed

From the Weekly Standard:

There are lots of ways to leave a lousy job. In 2011, a young man named Adam, a shift duty manager of a Taco Bell in New York, was required to work on July 4, despite having worked 22 straight days. Fed up, he climbed up to the sign outside the restaurant and published a brief, but pointed op-ed, in giant letters:

“I QUIT – ADAM. F--- YOU.”

It was a stylish and clean break. But, apparently, this sort of thing is a lost art form, at least in the higher reaches of government.

Washington is consumed, as its wont, with the anonymous op ed in The New York Times by a “senior official in the Trump Administration,” announcing that he is part of a “quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first.” Unlike the Taco Bell manager, the official apparently intends to stick around as part of a group of people who “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

The reaction to this sensation is, of course, sensational, with the president’s own reaction described as “volcanic.” An already paranoid and dysfunctional White House is now consumed with multiple mole hunts, as Trump himself descends to opera bouffe by demanding that the Times turn the anonymous official “over to government at once!”

A more likely scenario is that the author will be exposed and forced out of government and onto cable television in the very near future. At that point, we will be able to come to some sort of a judgment about his or her motivations in penning this extraordinary, and very odd, essay.

Some clarification here: the piece is odd, but not wrong. The author’s description of Trump’s character is precise and the characterization of Trump’s erratic style of governing is familiar. The author also seems to grasp the gravamen of our political crisis: 

The Catholic Church Isn't Immune to Tribalism

The Catholic Church Isn't Immune to Tribalism

From the Weekly Standard:

Two weeks ago the satirical website The Babylon Bee posted a parody in which the pope says that he will address the sex abuse scandal after he’s finished talking about climate change

The head of the Roman Catholic Church claimed he is deeply concerned with the tragic report, but is “just too swamped” with work fighting climate change, criticizing capitalism, and advocating for other issues of social justice to talk about the repulsive report at the moment.

But parody can no longer keep up with the pace of reality.

This week, Chicago’s Cardinal Blasé Cupich, channeled the Bee, when he told a local television station that “the Pope has a bigger agenda," than responding to charges by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that he knew about incidents of sexual abuse. "He's got to get on with other things,” Cardinal Cupich said, “of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this."

The rabbit hole, of course, is the decades-long molestation of thousands of children and the church’s role in enabling and covering up the crimes. More specifically, the cardinal was referring to allegations that Pope Francis knew that former Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick had preyed on seminarians and had been admonished by the pope’s predecessor.

The Rot at the Top

The Rot at the Top

From the Weekly Standard:

Republicans have bet their future on the proposition that character does not matter, or at least not the character of Donald Trump.

So, perhaps too late, they are discovering that having a president who is a chronic liar is both morally and politically problematic. As a New Yorker, Trump is surely familiar with the hoary adage that “the fish rots from the head down.” As president, he has turned it into a governing principle.

The consequence is that Republicans now face a midterm election that is likely to turn less on tax cuts than on the miasma of sleaze and corruption that surrounds them.

Until now, Republicans have been able to comfort themselves by pointing to policy wins, a strong economy, and a political culture in which nothing matters. And maybe nothing does. But this feels like a turning point of sorts. This week was the worst of Donald Trump’s presidency. But it seems likely there will be worse still.

The Unbearable Lightness of Falwell the Lesser

From the Weekly Standard

“No man who says, 'I'm as good as you,' believes it. He would not say it if he did.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

One of the inestimable blessings of social media is that one does not have to be a student at Liberty University to have the benefit of the historical or moral insights of the institution’s president.

On a regular basis, Jerry Falwell Jr. dispenses his evangelical wisdom to his tens of thousands of Twitter followers, and provides an invaluable guide to the moral and political shapeshifting among evangelical leaders as they struggle to rationalize their support for Trumpism.

Even in an era of marked by exquisite self-humiliations, Falwell has distinguished himself. Along with his wife, Falwell Jr. famously posed for a thumbs-up picture with Donald Trump in front of a wall of Trump memorabilia—including a cover of Playboy magazine featuring a younger Trump with a provocatively posed model. 

Read the rest here:


We Are All Trapped in Trump's Reality TV Show

We Are All Trapped in Trump's Reality TV Show

From the Weekly Standard:

With apologies to Dorothy Parker: What fresh hell is this?

Even in a presidency that has become a series of bizarre moments, this week seems to mark a milestone of sorts. On Tuesday, a White House briefing about Omarosa Manigault Newman was interrupted, if only briefly, by a question about ISIS, an actual war we are fighting in the real world. But it quickly reverted back to the reality-star-turned-White-House-aide’s latest allegations and the president’s tweets about her—because we all live in Trump’s World now.

The New York Times’s Michelle Goldberg described Omarosa, the “reality show villain who campaigned for Donald Trump and followed him into the White House,” as “an amoral, dishonest, mercenary grifter. This makes her just like most people in Trump’s orbit. What separates her from them is that she might be capable of a sliver of shame.”

Goldberg ought to have stopped at “grifter.”

The Price of GOP Surrender

The Price of GOP Surrender


Political parties do not lose their souls or their identities all at once. Usually, it is a gradual process of compromises that make sense in the moment, but which have a cumulative effect — like a frog being gradually boiled.

There are obvious reasons why Republicans have been so unwilling to stand up to President Donald Trump: political tribalism, transactionalism, anti-anti-Trumpism and, yes, timidity. While expressing dismay in private, GOP officials know that the Republican base remains solidly behind Trump. In a hyper-partisan environment, standing on principle can be dangerous for your political health.

But the price of the GOP’s bargain with Trump, however, has continued to rise. Republicans in Congress now not only have to swallow Trump’s erratic narcissism, but also his assaults on the very core principles that supposedly define their politics: fiscal conservatism, free trade, the global world order, our allies, truth and the rule of law.

Conservatism in Eclipse in the Age of Trump

Conservatism in Eclipse in the Age of Trump

From The Guardian:

As Donald Trump extends his control over the Republican Party, American conservativism has entered a pseudo-Orwellian stage where weakness is strength, appeasement is toughness, lies are truth, and America First means Blame America First.

Last week’s fiasco in Helsinki, where the president openly sided with Vladimir Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies, was not a one off for this president, but rather an exclamation point on what has happened to the American Right.

As an outspoken conservative for the last four decades, the experience has been vertiginous. On one issue after another -- from Russia and free trade to corruption, and the rule of law -- Republicans have adjusted their principles to conform with Trumpism, which often means with Trump’s latest glandular impulse.

I came of age watching Ronald Reagan call on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” as he reasserted America’s role as leader of the free world. Last week we saw Trump insult our allies, undermine our friends, and truckle to the Russian autocrat.

The GOP Needs to Stop Tweeting, And Actually Do Something

The GOP Needs to Stop Tweeting, And Actually Do Something

From Sunday's New York Times:

Enough with the indignant press releases, strongly worded emails, disapproving tweets and mournful cable television appearances.

Republicans in Congress need to realize that they are not merely constitutional potted plants. Despite mantras of impotence, the elected members of the party need to remember that they have the power to pressure the White House. And they can do it without derailing a conservative agenda.

At that news conference in Helsinki, the world was confronted with an extraordinary stew of narcissism, appeasement, moral surrender and the chronic dishonesty that Republicans have been willing to tolerate for so long. But now the stakes are higher.

In just a few days, President Trump undermined the global world order, weakened our alliances, cast doubt on our commitments to NATO, sided with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies and suggested that the Russians be allowed to interrogate a former ambassador to their country. Despite the attempted walkbacks, clarifications and various obfuscations about dropped contractions, the damage is real. And now Mr. Trump wants Mr. Putin to come to Washington.

The danger should be obvious. That’s why mere expressions of outrage simply are no longer adequate.

11 Lessons From Russia Week

11 Lessons From Russia Week

From the Weekly Standard:

The pace has been dizzying. With all the walk backs, reversals, dropped contractions, and various obfuscations: Russia week has been Peak Trump. Herewith some quick takeaways.

(1) “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter,” Mark Twain once observed, “tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” But Twain could hardly have guessed that international relations would one day turn on the difference between “would” and “wouldn’t.”

(2) You simply cannot underestimate the credulity of some elements of the electorate. Case in point: anyone who accepted Trump’s explanation that when he said he didn’t know why Russia would hack our elections, he really meant he didn’t know why they wouldn’t. The episode once again called to mind H. L. Mencken’s observation. “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” Trump continues to count on it.

"The Fall of Wisconsin"? Not Quite

"The Fall of Wisconsin"? Not Quite

From National Review:
What happened in Wisconsin should be a cautionary tale for the Left in the Age of Trump. But as this book makes clear, the Left declines to be cautioned.

According to the publisher, The Fall of Wisconsin gives “the untold story behind the most shocking political upheaval in the country.” But that story has, in fact, been told repeatedly, and author Dan Kaufman adds little to those accounts. Rather than a thoughtful critique of how progressives in a state with such a rich political tradition squandered their historical advantages, what we get is a work of ideological nostalgia, written with political rage goggles. Kaufman yearns for a return to the days of Scandinavian-style social-democratic politics, which he thinks have been defaced and degraded by a deep-pocketed and malign conservative machine.

The Fall of Wisconsin is packed with the sort of stories that progressives tell one another to account for their multiple defeats. It wasn’t anything we did, they reassure themselves; it was big money, the Koch brothers, Citizens United, voter-ID laws, gerrymandering, and a vast conservative infrastructure.

Kaufman paints a dystopian picture in which conservatives such as Governor Scott Walker (very much the villain of the book) “pitted Wisconsin citizens against one another, paving the way for the decimation of laws protecting labor unions, the environment, voting rights, and public education.” The results of those Republican victories, he writes, have been “disastrous” for just about everyone and everything, from the middle class to the environment, children, and small animals.

How awful — except that I live in Wisconsin and I can testify that, contra the title of this book, it has not “fallen.” Actually, it’s quite nice here, especially during our six weeks or so of summer. Despite his depiction of Wisconsin as a reactionary hellhole, the unemployment rate here is 2.9 percent, well below the national average; both the labor force and wages are growing; everyone in poverty is covered under Medicaid; the state has the ninth-best high-school-graduation rate in the country, and school spending is on the rise; and the state’s GDP has grown faster than that of neighboring Minnesota.

No, It's Not Worth It

No, It's Not Worth It

From the Weekly Standard:

George Will has described Donald Trump as a “Vesuvius of mendacities.” But as we have discovered in the last 24 hours, we have failed to grasp the full scope of his volcanic recklessness; his obsequiousness, his dishonesty, his willingness to insult his own country, all the while suggesting a moral equivalency between Vladimir Putin’s thugocracy and American democracy.

It seems only moments ago that Republicans derided Barack Obama’s “apology tour.” But that has been replaced by Donald Trump’s Groveling Tour, a peculiar combination of bullying our friends and fawning on our enemies. Monday’s summit seems destined to be recorded in the annals of diplomatic folly, with geopolitical consequences that will last far longer than our own frenetic attention spans.

By now it is almost tedious to point out the contrast between Trump’s disdain for the leaders of our closest allies and his fascination with the world’s most thuggish and violent dictators. What we have learned again is that at the heart of every truculent and strutting bully is a craven sycophant eager to cower before a bigger bully.

On Monday, Trump found that bigger bully and his cowering was the embarrassment heard round the world.

8 Things we Learned From the Kavanaugh Appointment

8 Things we Learned From the Kavanaugh Appointment

From the Weekly Standard:

(1) Naming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is the least Trumpiest thing Trump has done so far (tied with his appointment of Neil Gorsuch.) The often-erratic president followed a highly un-erratic path to this pick, outsourcing the vetting to groups such as the Federalist Society and working off a list of highly qualified, intellectually credible candidates. So we get a sterling pick for SCOTUS, from a White House that has in the past given us Seb Gorka, Anthony Scaramucci, and Omarosa. As Ross Douthat notes, at least on this one issue, “Trump has demonstrated that he’ll take his Trumpishness only so far.”

Rather than choosing a red-meat fight to entertain his base, he went with a candidate that the conservative legal establishment will embrace with enthusiasm (and relief).

(2) Naming Kavanaugh was the Bushiest thing Trump has done as president. No, we didn’t get Judge Janine or someone championed by Sean Hannity. Instead, Trump chose a veteran of the Bush White House and a Bush appointee, and (forgetting the unforgettable Harriet Miers fiasco for a moment), a judge very much in the mold of John Roberts and Sam Alito, the two George W. Bush appointees. And no, he’s not going to be another David Souter. That’s the point of having a list.

Our Summer of Jerkitude

Our Summer of Jerkitude

From the Weekly Standard:

As America continues its downward spiral of incivility, we have entered the Summer of Jerkitude. (I had thought about using a different word that ended in “-holery,” but wasn’t sure it would pass muster with the editors of a tasteful and intellectual publication like THE WEEKLY STANDARD.)

But “jerkitude” is a useful concept for our national moment of irritation and obnoxiousness. As it happens, some years ago, Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, developed a comprehensive theory of the essence of jerkitude:

The jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers. . . .The jerk himself is both intellectually and emotionally defective, and what he defectively fails to appreciate is both the intellectual and emotional perspectives of the people around him.

Which brings us to the owner who kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of her restaurant, Robert DeNiro’s f-bomb at the Tony Awards, President Trump’s twitter feed, Corey Lewandowski’s “mwah-mwah” about a child with Down Syndrome, Maxine Waters, and actor, director, and thorough jerk, Seth Rogen.

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and the New Cruelty

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and the New Cruelty

From The Weekly Standard:

n the movie L.A. Story, the character played by Chevy Chase goes to a hyper-fashionable restaurant named, appropriately enough, L’Idiot.

He is greeted by the maitre d’, played by Patrick Stewart, who asks, ‘Your usual table?”

“No,” Chase’s character responds, “I’d like a good one this time.”

“I’m sorry, that is impossible,” Stewart’s character replies.

“Part of the new cruelty?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Although L.A. Story was released in 1991, it has supplied us with an apt rubric for our own times; the New Cruelty is the Trumpian successor to the New Deal and Great Society.

I was reminded of it watching the viral video of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, defend the policy of separating children from their mothers and fathers at the border. (Less than 24 hours later, Trump would reverse course and issue an executive order he said would stop the practice, although it’s unclear how that will work.)

Appearing on Fox News, Lewandowski mocked a story about a 10-yearold with Down syndrome being separated from her parents. “Wahh, wahh,” Lewandowski cracked, making “a dismissive trombone-like sound effect,” as the Washington Post described it.

The reaction to Lewandowski’s crassness was justifiably outraged. “There is no low to which this coward Corey Lewandowski won’t sink,” tweeted Megyn Kelly, “This man should not be afforded a national platform to spew his hate.”

And, indeed, Lewandowski seems especially vile in an era in which vileness increasingly appears to be a career path. But was his insensitive gibe off-message? Or was it simply a cruder version of the New Cruelty that has displaced whatever was left of “compassionate conservativism.”

Donald Trump's Sinister New Pardon Show

Donald Trump's Sinister New Pardon Show

Watch the television images: the joyous reunion of an elderly black woman with her family after being freed by a dramatic presidential pardon. Alice Marie Johnson had been imprisoned for more than 20 years on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. But she was freed by presidential fiat—Donald Trump commuted her sentence—after a high-profile appeal from Kim Kardashian.

The reviews were ecstatic across the political divide. ”Huge victory!!” declared commentator and progressive activist Van Jones, “Congrats to everyone who kept fighting, even when they said it was impossible.” On CNN, Jones hosted an emotional interview with Kardashian, who described the momentshe called Johnson with the news of her freedom.

"We cried, maybe, on the phone for like three minutes straight," an emotional Kardashian told CNN's Van Jones, recounting her advocacy for Johnson, and her role in President Donald Trump's decision to grant Johnson clemency on Wednesday. "Everyone was just crying."

This was all powerful stuff and no one understood the extraordinary made-for-television quality of the moment more than that inveterate television watcher, Donald Trump.

This will work for him, and he knows it.

Trump has already used his sweeping powers to wipe away the convictions of right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as well as the late great Jack Johnson, but the president’s enthusiasm for pardons seems to be growing.

Under the Constitution, the power to pardon or commute is virtually unlimited. With the exception of impeachment, there are no real checks or balances. He requires no congressional action or even consultation; the courts play no role. With the exception of ordering military action, the pardon is perhaps the most awesome of presidential powers.

Roman emperors learned that they could score points with the public by providing bread and circuses; but at the heart of the imperial power was the gesture of thumbs up or thumbs down.

The pardon is the presidential equivalent of the thumb. With a simple edict, the president can confer freedom and redemption, at least for a favored few.

The Mystery of Scott Pruitt's Mattress

The Mystery of Scott Pruitt's Mattress

From the Weekly Standard:

I get the grifting, I even get the graft.

Human nature being what it is, there is nothing mysterious about Scott Pruitt’s penchant for self-dealing and aggrandizement. He is hardly the first newcomer to be seduced and corrupted by the blandishments of ego, power, prestige, and greed that power the nation’s capital.

This is especially true for officials in an administration that takes its cue from the firm of Giuliani, Cohen, and My Cousin Vinny.

So it’s cringeworthy, but not particularly shocking, that the EPA administrator would have a taste for sweetheart deals with lobbyists, first-class airfare, a 20-person security entourage, motorcades with flashing lights, and a $43,000 super-secret phone booth.

Given the concentric circles of sleaze in Trump World, not even Pruitt’s taste for nepotism seems especially out of place. We now learn that Pruitt somehow found the time to task an EPA aide with trying to help wrangle a Chick Fil-A franchise for his wife Marilyn.

Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chief executive of the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”?

Apparently, nothing came of it, but the attempt to use his office and his staffers to score a deal for his family doesn’t win many points for subtlety (or legality). For Pruitt, it probably just seemed like an another day in a town that now does much of its schmoozing at the Trump Hotel and where the lines between governing and the family business often seem a bit vague.

Pruitt, nonetheless, has become the quintessential swamp creature of the Trump era. Given the competition, this is quite an accomplishment for a guy from Oklahoma.

I get all that. What I don’t get is the mattress.

In testimony to congressional investigators, Pruitt’s now ex-scheduler says that the EPA boss instructed her to track down a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel and to help him find a new apartment.

This is likely illegal:

Federal ethics standards prohibit such personal assistance by a subordinate, even if the employee is working outside of office hours . . . One provision bans the use of government time to handle personal matters. A second provision prohibits bosses from asking employees to handle personal matters for them outside of the office.

It is also incomprehensibly gross.

Is Donald Trump a Bernie Bro?

From the Weekly Standard:

In fairness, Steve Bannon has never really pretended to be a conservative.

“I’m a Leninist,” Steve Bannon told Ronald Radosh, back in 2013. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

That included, of course, such antiquated ideas as free markets, fiscal conservatism, and small government. “Like [Andrew] Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," he boasted to Michael Wolff back in November 2016. "The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. …. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution—conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

In retrospect, the reference to the 1930s—not an especially great decade for conservative policy—ought to have been a tip-off. So it probably should not come as a great shock to hear that Trump’s chief ideologist’s grand new vision includes incorporating a socialist as a part of the future of his movement, while flirting with the far right European parties.

“Europe is about a year ahead of the United States. ... You see populist-nationalist movements with reform [here]. ... You could begin to see the elements of Bernie Sanders coupled with the Trump movement that really becomes a dominant political force in American politics.”

Of course, it’s tempting to brush this off as Bannonite grandiloquence, but the crossover between Trumpism and Bernie-ism has always been an undercurrent of Bannon’s vision and Trump’s campaign.

Whether they fully grasp it or not, many Republicans seem to be embracing that post-conservative vision, especially as Trump flirts with trade wars and his administration openly contemplates forcing the use of coal and nuclear power on the nation’s grid operators.

The department’s strategy, outlined in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News, would use authority granted under a pair of federal laws to establish a “strategic electric generation reserve” and compel grid operators to buy electricity from at-risk plants. The steps are necessary, the memo says, to protect national security. [Emphasis added.]

Bernie would be proud.

Read the rest here:

Smug Alert!

From the Weekly Standard:

It is belatedly dawning on some progressives that they may need to more than just #resist Donald Trump to win elections. What, asks the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, is the big idea that Democrats will carry into the 2020 election?

I doubt it will be “cultural appropriation.”

As I write that sentence, I’m already feeling the blowback brewing out there, probably a hangover from my time in the social justice barrel last week.

It all began simply enough. This year’s Met Gala had the theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” featuring the usual collection of beautiful people and celebrities, rather unusually dressed up in faux-Catholic costumes.

Katy Perry showed up with an impressive set of angel’s wings; Victoria’s Secret model Taylor Hill wore an outfit that would have done a priest in the Spanish Inquisition proud. In its write-up, the New Yorker noted that actor/director Jared Leto showed up dressed as “an eccentric Jesus, in a floor-length liturgical stole and a golden crown of thorns,” while actress Olivia Munn, best known in these parts as the former girlfriend of Aaron Rodgers, turned up in “a custom H & M dress complete with a Monty Python-esque chain-mail coif,” which made her “the only guest who went full Crusades.” Madonna was also there, wearing something similarly Catholic-ish.

Naturally, this set off one of those minor cultural skirmishes that have become a fixture in our time.

Read the rest here:

Donald Trump's Crab Bucket Moral Universe

Donald Trump's Crab Bucket Moral Universe

From the Weekly Standard:

We should be clear about this. John McCain haunts the Trump White House, not because of his votes or policy disagreements, but because he represents the man that Donald Trump cannot ever be.

McCain, who is battling brain cancer, is exiting the stage as a Man in Full, his integrity intact and intent on having the last word. With every passing day he sharpens the contrast between himself and the man in the Oval Office: In his final book, due out this month, he writes of Trump that “[f]lattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity.” The former prisoner of war has also expressed his opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” White House aide Kelly Sadler reportedly quipped dismissively. Sadler’s crass comment drew angry and well-deserved rebukes. "People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a pointed statement. “It happened yesterday."

Notably, the White House does not deny Sadler’s mockery. But on Friday, Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, refused to apologize, expressing more concern about the leak than the attack itself. "I'm not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of a leaked meeting.” The voluble Trump himself is also notably silent, unwilling to make a single gracious gesture or expression of regret.

None of this should be surprising, because in Trump World, the tone is set from the top.