Tag Archives: John Kelly

Oh, Gen. Kelly, you are beginning to disappoint

John Kelly took command of the White House staff amid great expectations that he’d continue to earn the respect he deserved as a decorated Marine Corps officer — and a Gold Star father.

This week, Gen. Kelly knocked himself down a few pegs in my estimation. For what purpose? To declare that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man” who fought on behalf of his state during the Civil War.

No! No! No! Gen. Kelly, he fought against the United States of America. Gen. Lee wanted to preserve slavery. He wanted to keep human beings in bondage. He wanted to maintain a federal policy that said slaves were three-fifths human.

How can that be honorable? Moreover, Gen. Kelly, how can you suggest with a straight face that a “failure to find compromise” was the reason the nation tore itself in two, killing 600,000 Americans on both sides of the Civil War?

No, sir. Slavery could not be compromised. It was an evil chapter of American history. It needed to be wiped out, eradicated. The Civil War commenced because the Confederacy was unwilling to surrender to demands to end the enslavement of human beings.

Reaction is swift

The Congressional Black Caucus, understandably, has been quick to challenge Kelly’s assertions about the cause of the Civil War. Kelly critics have suggested he needs to re-read some historical accounts of what drove the nation into this horrible, bloody conflict.

I so had hoped Kelly would be the right tonic for the White House operational mixture that boiled and simmered under Reince Priebus’s tenure as chief of staff.

I heard someone say a few weeks ago that Donald J. Trump has the rare skill of making everyone around worse than they were before they joined him. I fear he might be having that kind of impact on Gen. John Kelly.

Sad, eh?

Stop cheapening Gold Star sacrifices

It never should have gotten to this point.

The president of the United States gets asked a question from a reporter about his silence over the deaths of four U.S. Army personnel in an ambush in Niger.

He answers with a false recitation of what he understood was presidential policy regarding the deaths of service personnel in the line of duty.

Then he is overheard — allegedly — telling the wife of one of the slain soldiers that he “new what he was getting into … but I guess it still hurts.”

Then come the insults between Donald John Trump and Florida Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who blabbed about what she overheard the president say. Trump has been working his Twitter fingers overtime in hurling insults; Wilson has responded.

And then came John Kelly, the retired Marine general and himself a Gold Star father to defend the president and to express “shock” that Rep. Wilson would reveal what she heard.

Stop already!

The Gold Star families who are caught in the middle of this petulant p****** match deserve better than to be used as political footballs. They deserve only to grieve in private. They deserve to be honored for their sacrifice. They deserve only to be comforted and saluted.

It’s not turning out that way. It has become a political sideshow featuring — for crying out loud! — the commander in chief, a member of Congress, the White House chief of staff.

Who started this ridiculous exchange? I’ll put the blame on the president. He couldn’t simply say in response to that initial question that he’ll call the families soon and leave it at that. No-o-o-o. He had to misstate what has been common practice by three of his predecessors.

Then for him to denigrate a member of Congress — a friend of the grieving family at the center of this ridiculous exchange — goes beyond the pale. He calls her a “wacky Democrat.”

I’ll harken back to the statement of retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who said this politicization denigrates the service of the fallen soldiers and dishonors the grief their loves are enduring.

Oh, the shame of it all.

Why can’t POTUS speak with this kind of clarity?

John Kelly works for a guy who seems genetically incapable of speaking with moral certitude and clarity.

When the president speaks about slain soldiers “knowing what they were getting into … but I guess it still hurts,” he comes off sounding like a heartless buffoon.

When the White House chief of staff offers the same explanation over what his “best friend” told him after his son was killed in Afghanistan, he sounds dignified, heartfelt and sincere.

Donald J. Trump has opened the door yet again to a pointless and needless controversy. This time it centers on how the president sought to console a grieving widow whose husband died in a firefight in Niger several days ago.

The president might have been motivated to do the right thing. Perhaps he intended to sound compassionate. My reading of what’s been reported about what he told Myeshia Johnson, whose husband Sgt. La David Johnson, died in Niger, tells me the president just isn’t good at fulfilling that role.

And yet, Gen. Kelly manages to sound the right tone, despite his criticism of Rep. Frederica Wilson, who reported the content of the president’s phone conversation with Mrs. Johnson.

Weird.

It all starts at the top

I happen to admire John Kelly greatly. The White House chief of staff is a man of tremendous honor who has served his country — our country — with distinction and valor.

The retired Marine Corps general has given too much. His son died on an Afghanistan battlefield, which hands him the title of Gold Star father. Gen. Kelly spoke with great eloquence today in talking about a phone call that Donald Trump made to the widow of a soldier who was killed in an ambush in Niger. He praised the president and expressed “shock” and “heartbreak” that a member of Congress would discuss publicly the content of that phone call.

I want to disagree with great respect to Gen. Kelly on a particular point, however. The president of the United States — Kelly’s boss — is the man who made this a public issue. It was Trump who stated that previous presidents didn’t generally call the loved ones who died in battle.

So, we can debate whether Rep. Frederica Wilson spoke out of turn. We can argue over the propriety of her to interject herself into this highly sensitive and emotional issue.

However, as is his habit, the president chose to make this an issue in the first place because of his own untrue statements regarding how his immediate predecessors performed the heart-wrenching task of serving as commander in chief.

POTUS scars sacred ground

The president of the United States has zero political instincts when it comes to the decorum of his high office.

Consider what he’s now doing to politicize the deaths of fallen American warriors. Donald John Trump has declared falsely that previous presidents haven’t bothered to send letters to Gold Star families, or to call them, or offer a nation’s gratitude.

His latest epic lie has drawn strong responses from the three men who preceded him immediately in the office: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Aides for all three men have condemned the president’s specious claim that their bosses didn’t do what Trump has said he has done.

Good grief! Can this man ever find a way to conduct himself with a semblance of dignity? Can he ever learn how decorum matters as it involves the presidency of the United States of America?

Trump dishonors military

To make matters worse, if that’s possible, he decided to drag the memory of White House chief of staff John Kelly into this atrocious dispute. The president wondered on Fox News Rado if President Obama ever called Kelly when his son died in battle. According to The Associated Press:

Then Trump stirred things further Tuesday on Fox News Radio, saying, “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”
John Kelly, a Marine general under Obama, is Trump’s chief of staff. His son, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. John Kelly was not seen at Trump’s public events Tuesday.

John Kelly reportedly sought to keep his son’s memory out of the current political dispute. The president, of course, demonstrated his tin ear and blabbed out loud about Lt. Kelly’s death anyway.

Disgraceful.

Kelly expands his WH footprint

It’s been a bad week for Donald John Trump.

His effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed; an Alabama special Republican primary election nominated someone other than the guy Trump endorsed; the government’s response to Hurricane Maria’s wrath has been called into serious question; then the health and human services secretary “resigned” over a growing controversy involving his expensive travel habits.

Caught in the midst of this maelstrom is White House chief of staff John Kelly. I want to discuss briefly Kelly’s impact on the final element of Trump’s bad week, the ouster of HHS Secretary Tom Price.

Kelly has instituted some new rules regarding official travel of Cabinet officials and senior administration staffers. So, the retired Marine general is making his presence felt once again.

Kelly is one Trump appointment who’s had a net positive impact on the administration. I am glad to see him at his new post and hope he can continue to build some semblance of order in a seriously dysfunctional White House.

Kelly calls the travel shots

They will need approval from the chief of staff, according to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. I am willing to bet the farm that Kelly insisted on gaining that approval. Price had abused his position by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money in expensive charter air travel.

Gen. Kelly has made his mark. He’ll keep making his mark as long as the president will allow him. He won’t eclipse the president, whose ego won’t allow it. The question that keeps cropping up in my own mind is whether Trump will entrust him to do his job.

The ‘swamp’ is draining … finally?

Tom Price is not a political whippersnapper. He’s not wet behind the ears. He’s been around Washington, D.C., first as a member of Congress and then — until today — as secretary of health and human services.

Dr. Price quit his HHS Cabinet job in the wake of boiling controversy involving his use of private aircraft that taxpayers paid for. It smacked of a spendthrift philosophy that smacked Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in D.C. squarely in the face.

Price’s travel expenses ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He had promised to pay back $52,000, which amounted to a fraction of the bill he ran up flying aboard private charter jets rather than commercial airlines, which had been the custom over many previous administrations.

Price is now gone. He resigned today. Is the proverbial “swamp” now starting to drain? Well, I’m not holding my breath just yet.

Price once complained loudly against then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of “luxury jets” while she flew around the country. Then he gets caught doing something quite similar, if not identical, to what he accused Pelosi of doing.

It all kind of reminds me of how another House speaker, Newt Gingrich, wailed and railed against President Bill Clinton for his affair with the White House intern in the late 1990s — while at the same time Newt was taking a tumble with a congressional staff member while he was married to someone else.

Sigh …

Where do we go from here? The president has made precious few wise moves since stepping into the Oval Office. One of them is his hiring of John Kelly as White House chief of staff. Indeed, it appears quite likely that Gen. Kelly had a hand in Dr. Price’s resignation. Moreover, it also is being reported that Kelly’s fingerprints appear to be all over a new White House directive that mandates that all Cabinet officers and senior staffers clear their travel plans with Kelly and White House legal counsel.

Price’s departure is not a surprise, given the president’s own expressions of anger over the revelation about the former secretar’s travel habits.

The Trump administration, though, needs to pull a lot more plugs at the bottom of that “swamp” to ensure it gets drained.

Gen. Kelly needs a poker face

I continue to be a fan of White House chief of staff John Kelly.

He’s seeking to bring some discipline and order to the White House while trying to instruct the Oval Office occupant, Donald J. Trump, on how to act in a manner befitting his exalted title: president of the United States of America.

The former Marine four-star general, though, needs to develop a poker face when he’s forced to watch the president make an ass of himself on the world stage.

There he was at the United Nations this week, listening to the president talk about the “total destruction” of North Korea. Yes, Trump said that while speaking in the forum established in 1945 for the expressed purpose of finding peaceful solutions to international crises.

Gen. Kelly put his hand over his face. The question becomes: Was he mortified at what he was hearing? We don’t know, of course. He won’t say. The White House press operation said Kelly wasn’t reacting to anything in particular.

His reaction was somewhat similar to the body language he “spoke” while listening to the president refer to “both sides” being responsible for the Charlottesville, Va., riot that left a young counter protester dead after she was run over by a man with alleged ties to the white supremacists who provoked the riot in the first place.

Then again, we don’t know what Kelly was thinking at that time, either.

My point is that Kelly would do better for himself if he just sat there stoically without prompting observers all around the world to interpret body language messages.

Absent that kind of self-discipline, we are left to wonder out loud if he’s as disgusted at the boss as many of the rest of us.

Congressman goes beyond the pale in this attack

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez needs to chill out. He needs to take a breath. He needs to rethink the insult he hurled at one of Donald Trump’s more celebrated and worthy appointees.

The Illinois Democrat is angry that the president decided to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order signed by President Barack Obama. He’s so angry that he said that White House chief of staff John Kelly has “disgraced the uniform he used to wear” by enabling the president to rescind this order.

I have two words for Rep. Gutierrez: Shut. Up.

I will stipulate first of all that I agree that the DACA rescission is a mistake. I wish the president had not done it. I believe DACA rules are humane, in that they protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children illegally by their parents; many of them know no other country than the United States of America. They deserve a clear and unfettered path to citizenship or permanent legal immigrant status.

But to say that Kelly — a retired Marine Corps general and a Gold Star father whose son was killed in combat in Afghanistan — goes far beyond what is decent and honorable.

I get that Gutierrez is emotional about immigration reform. He feels it in his gut. But let’s put the hyper-heated and defamatory rhetoric in cold storage while we discuss DACA, shall we?

Oh, one more thing: Luis Gutierrez’s own military service? None.

GOP about to ‘eat its young’?

The late Texas state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo used to joke that congressional and legislative reapportionment every decade was an opportunity for the Republican Party “to eat its young.”

His humor, I guess, was aimed at how Republicans — and I’ll presume Democrats, too — would redraw boundaries to make their own members vulnerable to political challenge.

I never quite understood Bivins’s example, but we might be about to witness a political war taking shape among Republicans that will produce some intraparty casualties. Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, has said the party is about to go to war with itself.

There will be the Bannon wing — comprising uber-nationalists/isolationists — against the “establishment wing” of the GOP.

He told “60 Minutes” that the Bannonites and the establishment types are going to fight tooth and nail for the attention and affection of the president of the United States. Bannon believes that the Republican majority in Congress is disserving Donald J. Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan do not want Trump’s “populist message” to succeed, according to Bannon, who intends to fight for that message.

Bannon no longer draws a government salary, but he’s stands atop a formidable forum as editor in chief of Breitbart News, the media company from which he entered the White House at the start of the Trump administration. Bannon is a frightening dude, given his company’s occasional rants promoting anti-Semitic and white nationalist views.

I’m not particularly concerned about the outcome of this internecine battle. I don’t support the president’s agenda. Nor do I want Bannon anywhere near the center of power. The president chose well when he asked John Kelly to be White House chief of staff; indeed, Kelly is the reason that Bannon no longer advises the president from within the West Wing’s walls. That doesn’t mean Bannon has disappeared.

I’m quite sure that if the fight erupts within the party that the president’s ability to govern will suffer, given any evidence within the administration — starting with the man at the top — of any political skill or knowledge.

As for the Republican tendency to “eat its young” … bon appetit.