Kelly: A revealing defense of Trump
White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly was supposed to be one of the “adults in the room” who’d keep President Trump under control, said Alex Shephard in NewRepublic.com. But we just learned “there are no adults in the room.” In response to a mushrooming scandal over Trump’s condolence call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, Kelly last week made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room to defend his boss—and only further inflamed an ugly situation. The retired four-star general spoke movingly of his own son, killed in Afghanistan in 2010, and said Johnson’s widow misunderstood Trump’s meaning when the president said, “He knew what he signed up for”—but Kelly didn’t stop there. Instead, said Jennifer Rubin in Washington Post.com, he launched into a bizarre, “Trumpian soliloquy about the good old days,” when women, religion, and Gold Star families were all held “sacred.” Kelly then personally attacked Rep. Frederica Wilson, the Democratic family friend who heard Trump’s call to Johnson’s widow on a speakerphone. Dismissing Wilson as “an empty barrel,” Kelly falsely claimed she used a speech commemorating a building named for two fallen FBI agents to brag about her role in getting funds for the project. A video of the event showed this did not happen, but Kelly, like his boss, refused to apologize. Once again, we see that anyone who works for this toxic president winds up “morally corrupted.”
Kelly should certainly “address the error” regarding Wilson, said Noah Rothman in CommentaryMagazine.com, but the rest of his powerful speech “changed the game for Trump” after days of bad press. By speaking with such deep emotion about the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform—he called them “the best 1 percent this country produces”—Kelly steered the conversation into a “debate about American values” such as patriotism and valor. The “haughty mainstream media” may not have liked Kelly’s unapologetic celebration of our armed forces, said Nicole Russell in TheFederalist.com. But “Americans did.”
We should respect our military, said Richard Cohen in WashingtonPost.com, but we do not owe Kelly “slavish veneration.” His disdain for the civilians who couldn’t possibly understand military sacrifices was palpable in his speech, but the “most chilling” comment came from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Deflecting a question about Kelly’s smear of Wilson, Sanders said, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.” Whoa. Are we now governed by a military junta? “Soldiers are servants of democracies,” said retired Army Col. Robert Killebrew in ForeignPolicy.com, and they fight to protect a free, democratic society in which politicians are held accountable. Kelly and Sanders, much like their authoritarian boss, seem to lack “a gut-level understanding of democracy.”
Kelly’s a complicated man, said Eliot Cohen in TheAtlantic.com, and there were aspects of his speech that almost sounded like “an exercise in projection, as the psychologists would say.” He expressed “pity” for those who have never served...while defending a president who dodged the Vietnam draft by claiming to have “heel spurs.” He lamented the modern lack of respect for women and Gold Star families...while defending a self-declared sexual predator who waged a vendetta against the Gold Star Khan family during the presidential campaign. As he angrily chastised mere civilians for politicizing the death of a soldier, Kelly sounded heartsick— but was he really expressing his misery in serving a man for whom absolutely nothing is sacred?