Paul Ryan: John McCain is a hero

House Speaker Paul Ryan praises John McCain after a White House aide said McCain was "dying anyway" in response to his opposition to President Trump's pick for CIA director.

Posted: May 12, 2018 3:38 PM
Updated: May 13, 2018 6:15 AM

A few weeks ago, several political officials, and numerous journalists, jumped down the throat of comedian Michelle Wolf for making pointed remarks about the Trump administration at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The jokes, the critics said, were too harsh and further eroded "civility" in Washington. Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, said that Wolf's jokes about Sanders were "uncalled for. It's nasty."

The past 24 hours have made it clear that Wolf really wasn't the problem. With some jarring events in recent days the nation got another taste of the kind of bitter rhetoric that has become normalized during Donald Trump's presidency, even between members of the same party.

On the heels of reports that Sen. John McCain, who is struggling against cancer, doesn't want the President to attend his funeral, and after news broke that the senator opposed the administration's pick for CIA director, White House aide Kelly Sadler joked to colleagues in an internal White House meeting: "he's dying anyway." There was no political commentary that was the basis of Sadler's remark and it sounded malicious.

President Trump and Sen. McCain have always had a tense relationship. During the 2016 campaign, Trump criticized McCain for having been captured during the Vietnam War. "I like people that weren't captured," Trump said. Indeed, this kind of rhetoric may well have been the reason that the senator seemed to take particular delight in making a late-hours appearance for the vote last July on the administration's failed legislation to repeal Obamacare ... and to give it a dramatic (and literal) thumbs down.

And the race to the bottom has accelerated quickly. In another unseemly -- jaw-dropping, even -- slam at McCain over his opposition to torture, on Thursday a military commentator on Fox Business Network, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, said: "The fact is, is John McCain -- it worked on John. That's why they call him 'Songbird John.'"

Certainly, the coarsening of our political discourse cannot be pinned on Donald Trump. For over three decades, the nation has watched as politicians have lowered and lowered the bar for what they are willing to say publicly about each other.

Few members of Congress were totally prepared for the moment when South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson shouted out "You Lie!" to President Barack Obama as he spoke to a joint session of Congress about his health care proposals in 2009. The vicious language that has been used as Democrats and Republicans have moved farther apart is well-cataloged; the airwaves and the internet are filled with endless examples of political opponents demonizing and dehumanizing each other.

It is President Trump who has given this kind of rhetoric his imprimatur -- in fact, in many instances demonstrating himself just how it's done.

Every presidency helps establish the standards and norms under which we conduct our democracy. While all presidents in recent decades have been willing to jump into the tough partisan fray, Trump has been exceptional in the kind of language that he has regularly used on opponents -- and in public. This is one of those cases when it is fair to use the term "unprecedented."

Unlike his predecessors, he never made any shift away from the fierce broadsides that he delivered on the campaign trail, and in many cases he has doubled down on the kinds of "unconventional" -- often personal -- attacks about politicians and policymakers (as well as reporters, celebrities and activists) who stood in his way. When it comes to throwing insults, President Trump has no equal.

He has helped to cement an unfortunate new normal-- a cultural change -- in Washington, which explains why an official such as Sadler might not think twice about these kinds of remarks. This is, after all, the political world we now live in.

Without a top political leader trying to push back on these trends -- as Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both insisted on doing -- there is no role model to remind us of our better political angels. Future presidents will feel that they can "go there," if they want, without political repercussion.

While it is true that rhetoric is only a small part of the story in our democracy (policy and politics have the greatest sway) the way in which we talk about each other plays a part in setting the tone for our democratic process. The Sadler joke was much worse than anything Michelle Wolf ever said because it was done by a White House official in an official meeting and underneath a President who has repeatedly made even more objectionable statements.

After the story blew up in news reports, Sadler called Meghan McCain, the senator's daughter, to apologize, a source close to the situation told CNN.

Sometimes a joke is just a joke, and we should appreciate the value of tough humor. But in other cases insults and barbed language reflect deeper dysfunctions in our political system. And if this does not concern you, it should.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Hennepin25264915
Ramsey10267314
Dakota6942124
Anoka5531131
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Washington345955
Scott232532
Olmsted223726
Nobles191416
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Carver13037
Rice12798
Mower12534
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Clay119940
Sherburne105013
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Lyon6244
Steele5062
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Watonwan4844
Benton4793
Todd4722
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McLeod4332
Chisago4151
Waseca4118
Crow Wing40218
Otter Tail3674
Beltrami3624
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Polk2574
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Jackson1201
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Marshall481
Mahnomen441
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Lac qui Parle360
Traverse290
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Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 76924

Reported Deaths: 1241
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk14988255
Johnson490727
Woodbury475459
Black Hawk425184
Linn3640102
Story321417
Dallas263238
Scott261427
Dubuque251840
Buena Vista191812
Pottawattamie189437
Marshall175234
Sioux12243
Wapello122057
Webster117914
Muscatine105152
Clinton102418
Cerro Gordo97721
Plymouth97520
Crawford9444
Warren9186
Jasper72032
Des Moines7137
Marion6874
Tama67830
Carroll6085
Lee5727
Wright5491
Henry5104
Dickinson4666
Bremer4497
Boone4346
Washington41411
Louisa41314
Franklin33017
Hamilton3123
Mahaska30919
Delaware3053
Jackson2803
Floyd2793
Winneshiek2745
Clay2663
Hardin2661
Benton2611
Clarke2533
Butler2512
Winnebago24711
Emmet24210
Shelby2381
Allamakee2355
Jones2313
Poweshiek2308
Clayton2243
Lyon2233
Buchanan2181
Cedar2101
Guthrie2095
Chickasaw1970
Kossuth1950
Grundy1932
Madison1922
Howard1764
Sac1760
Fayette1751
Iowa1741
Cherokee1732
Mitchell1720
Hancock1702
Humboldt1682
Harrison1642
Calhoun1612
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Pocahontas1492
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Page1400
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