Tag Archives: John Kelly

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.

Bannon got the boot, but he’s still around

I am going to admit something that critics of this blog will applaud: I am wrong far more than I am right.

So, when I am right — or when my suspicion turns out to be correct — I feel a need to call attention to it.

Stephen K. Bannon got the boot recently as one of Donald Trump’s key White House advisers. Chief of staff John Kelly showed Bannon the door. My suspicion was that Bannon wouldn’t disappear entirely, that he’d remain a factor in the president’s policymaking.

Dammit anyway! Bannon appears to be hanging around.

Here is what I posted on Aug. 20:

Bannon’s gone, but is he … really?

Bannon returned to his roots, as editor of the far-right-wing publication Breitbart News. He reportedly chats with the president, according to sources in the White House, when John Kelly isn’t around. Think about that for a moment. Does that sound like the action of a junior high schooler who steals a cigarette from Dad when the old man is looking the other way?

The bigger issue, though, is that Bannon’s ultra-right-wing world view — his anti-globalism, uber nationalistic, allegedly racist ideology — will continue to help inform whatever passes for policy from the president.

Bannon is a scary dude. He didn’t belong on the National Security Council. Trump eventually removed him from that post. He didn’t belong anywhere near the Oval Office, but there he was, sitting next to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who also has no business being near the center of power.

So he gets shown the door out the back of the West Wing. He now vows to be Trump’s “wing man,” that he’ll work to keep the GOP based fired up and putting pressure on the president to do their bidding.

Bannon is no longer employed by the White House. If only he was actually gone.

Trump and Kelly: no ‘bromance’ likely here

Donald Trump became president of the United States with so many shortcomings, it’s futile to list them here.

I’ll just mention one of them: He doesn’t know that running an executive branch of government requires order, discipline and a strict adherence to the chain of command.

So, he took office and hired a decent young man as White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus. The only problem Priebus had was that he couldn’t instill any of those qualities in the White House operation. Chaos erupted daily, if not hourly.

Then he was gone. In came another type of manager: John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, the former secretary of homeland security. Kelly instilled a ton of discipline and order. He booted “Mooch” Scaramucci from the communications director job; he showed chief strategist Stephen Bannon the door. Sebastian Gorka, the so-called “terrorism expert” was out the door next. He has limited access to the Oval Office. He has bossed the staff around like the good Marine he is.

But as the New York Times story notes, he grates on the president — and the feeling is quite mutual.

Read the Time story here.

I was hoping that Trump’s appointment of Kelly might turn things around, that the White House might function as it is designed to function. It’s looking more and more that Kelly might not make the grade.

The problem starts at the very top. As the Times reports: “It is inevitable that a guy who will not be contained and does not want to be handled or managed was going to rebel against the latest manager who wanted to control him,” said Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser, who believes Mr. Kelly represents a kind of management coup by “the triumvirate” of two powerful retired generals — Mr. Kelly and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary — and one general who is still in the Army, the national security adviser, Lt. Gen H. R. McMaster.

Trump simply isn’t wired to follow a protocol that is not of his own making. He boasted repeatedly along the campaign trail that his stellar business success would hold him in good stead as president. It ain’t working out so well.

And let’s remember how the president accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination and declared that “I, alone” can solve every problem from which the nation suffers.

Uhh, no. You cannot, Mr. President. The office requires teamwork. It requires cooperation. And order. I should add discipline.

Gen. Kelly is trying to do his job. If only his boss would allow him.