It’s now been eight days since Kelly Sadler, a White House communications aide, mocked Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) failing health during a private meeting, the contents of which soon leaked to the press. For some in the political world, Team Trump’s refusal to apologize for the comments are reflective of this presidency’s coarseness and stubborn mean-spiritedness.
But in the West Wing, the real problem wasn’t Sadler’s comment, but rather, the fact that the public learned about Sadler’s comment. As the New York Times reports, the fallout is still unfolding.
The big daily meeting that past administrations have used to keep the White House on message has been scrapped in favor of something smaller. West Wing aides are instructed to drop their personal phones into small storage lockers when they come to work, periodically checked up on by a scanning device that detects nongovernment phones.
And in the Oval Office, there is President Trump, who is prone to erupt about his communications team as ineffective and leak-ridden, complaining he has the biggest team and yet he gets “the worst press.”
The report added that the White House, among other things, is considering “reducing the size” of its communications staff.
As for who’s leading that team, let’s also not forget that Trump has already gone through four communications directors since his election – five if you count Sean Spicer – and two months after Hope Hicks’ departure, the office remains empty.
All things considered, I imagine many will see behind-the-scenes drama like this as inside baseball, of no real concern to the country at large. Perhaps. But it’s nevertheless difficult to get over the fact that 15 months into the Trump presidency, the White House finds it necessary to scrap a daily meeting because West Wing officials no longer trust their own communications staff.
It’s emblematic of a larger truth.
Indeed, it comes on the heels of related reports about top White House officials questioning the president’s intellect, failed cabinet nominees due to a non-existent vetting process, White House officials relying on conservative media to communicate with Trump because he listens more “when it’s on TV,” all of which contribute to breathtaking levels of dysfunction at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Trump once asked Americans to believe his team operates like “a fine-tuned machine.” In hindsight, it’s possibly the most ridiculous boast this president has ever made.