Donald Trump's White House team faced daunting challenges last week, burdened by multiple controversies at once. The president and his aides found it difficult to answer questions, for example, about whether they tried to cover for a staff secretary accused of violence toward women. Rumors were rampant that the White House chief of staff was on his way out.
At the same time, the Russia scandal was becoming more serious; Trump confronted reports of two adulterous affairs with women from the adult-entertainment industry; and two cabinet members struggled to explain taxpayer-financed trips.
Against this backdrop, the Washington Post reported overnight, some in the White House apparently felt some relief after a mass murder pushed West Wing controversies off the front page.
[A] gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus on handling a crisis not of their own making. While the White House mourned the loss of life in Parkland, Fla., some aides privately acknowledged that the tragedy offered a breather from the political storm.
"For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve," an unnamed White House official told the Post. "A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled."
He or she added, "But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we'll be back through the chaos."
Look, I realize that White House officials have to balance personal and policy priorities. Those in positions of authority sometimes have to deal with painful circumstances as people and as political actors simultaneously. It's the nature of the work.
But that doesn't make the quote from a White House aide any easier to stomach.
If you're relieved by coverage of dead kids, perhaps a career in public service isn't for you. If you work in a White House so overcome by scandal that a slaughter in a high school offers a breather, perhaps there's something fundamentally wrong with that White House.