White House Chief of Staff John Kelly
(Flickr/thierry ehrmann) John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff

John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, appeared before the White House press corps Thursday for the second time in a week. Kelly’s performance drew varied media attention.

This time, Kelly was defending President Donald Trump’s remarks to the widow of a soldier killed in action in Niger. Trump’s comments had caused controversy.

In defending Trump, Kelly shared his feelings and perspective as a former general and father who had lost his son to combat.

John Kelly: The “Adult” in the White House?

In John Kelly’s earlier position as the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kelly was seen as one of the “axis of adults” to temper the erratic Trump’s actions. Some were dubious about this, given the travel ban chaos.

When Kelly entered the White House as Chief of Staff, there was some hope that he would be able to control an undisciplined White House. Indeed, he has made some improvements.

Unfortunately, Kelly’s ability to influence what the President says appears to be minimal. He acknowledged as much in his October 12 press briefing.

Usually, I would imagine that Presidents would speak only after seeing well-prepared and reviewed talking points. However, Trump does not conform to presidential norms.

Evidently, Kelly advised Trump about the calls to the military members of the fallen. He drew upon his own experience as the father of a downed soldier.

John Kelly Defense: Questionable Assumptions

When John Kelly’s son died in combat, General Joe Dunford comforted Kelly. Dunford told Kelly:

he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent… what the possibilities were because we’re at war

According to Kelly, this was what he told Trump when the President asked him for suggestions on what to say. Unfortunately, Kelly made some questionable assumptions in relating his experience to Trump.

First, Kelly should have realized that a military-to-military conversation is far different than a military-to-civilian exchange. As an “Air Force brat” and with two siblings who served, I know something about the military ethos.

Second, Trump is hardly the most empathetic person. We have already seen this in his attitudes towards policies and Puerto Rico.

Kelly’s defense also attacked Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. She had been the one who first publicized Trump’s remarks.

In yet another questionable assumption, Kelly claimed Wilson had boasted about securing funds for a FBI building. Reports emerged Friday, with video evidence, that she had not done this in her speech.

John Kelly Bemoans Erosion of Sacredness

John Kelly’s defense of Trump also lamented the loss of sacredness for women, life, religion, Gold Star families, and the service of those who had died for their country.

Perhaps Kelly should talk to his boss about that.

Who has been married three times and boasted about grabbing female genitals? And who is putting peoples’ lives at risk with deportations and refugee cuts?

Who is highlighting selectively the worst of religion? And who attacked John McCain’s service and Gold Star families first?

Sadly, the Kelly defense of Trump is one more instance of the debasing of eminent people in this administration.

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