-Analysis-

From Washington to Tehran to Pyongyang, the world’s attention this week has been consumed by nuclear diplomacy (and lack thereof). Talk of bad manners and misbehaving politicians, in light of such high stakes, might seem beside the point. And yet ...

Yesterday, in a closed-door meeting at the White House, special assistant Kelly Sadler reportedly had this to say about Sen. John McCain, who recently announced his opposition to President Trump’s nominee for CIA director:

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”

Yes, he is. Of brain cancer — after a more than 30-year career as a dedicated member of the U.S. Senate. Before that he served as a naval aviator in the war in Vietnam, where he was shot down, taken prisoner, tortured and held for several years.

You’d think McCain’s illness alone would compel people to treat the veteran lawmaker with a bit more respect. But no. It’s doesn’t matter, apparently.

Sadler isn’t, of course, the only person in the White House who thinks it’s okay to besmirch anyone of their choosing. The boss himself has made these kinds of crass insults a basic part of his mojo. Trump’s mockery of a disabled reporter comes to mind as a particularly egregious example, but there are countless others.

The disregard for any basic measure of decorum isn’t just a Washington thing either. In the UK this morning, at a BBC radio studio station, a pair of politicians got into a heated argument about previous comments allegedly made about the other’s “missus.”

“I didn’t realize there were any strippers in the place,” David Moreland, home affairs spokesman for the right-wing home affairs spokesman UK Independence Party (UKIP), is reported to have said about the wife of fellow UKIP member Chris Walch.

Shouldn’t spouses, like disabled people and cancer sufferers, be off-limits? What about children? Turns out they’re fair game too, as Argentine President Mauricio Macri demonstrated yesterday when he met a young fan of the recently relegated River Plate soccer team.

“You were doing well until you put on that [River Plate soccer] jersey and dropped to the B league,” the president told the boy. Macri is a known supporter of River Plate’s traditional rival, Boca Juniors.

Politics is, as they say, a contact sport. But both on questions of domestic decorum and nuclear diplomacy, we are reminded that any political match requires both rules and boundaries.


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