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Friday, October 20, 2017

Duty. Honor. Country. Politics. As Fox News says, "General Kelly defends Trump, shuts down libs' politicization of a tragedy"



In The White House Chief of Staff's comments yesterday, below the fold was a disturbing, full-throated endorsement of #MAGAism and a backhand to the freedom of the press.

First, the General harkened back to when racism flourished, women were second-class citizens whose bodies were controlled by men, and gay Americans could be jailed for just being gay Americans:
You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That's obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life -- the dignity of life -- is sacred. That's gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. 
Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought -- the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.
Having invoked his remembrances of Father Knows Best (kudos, though, for his sotto voce diss of the GOP's slander of the Khan family last year), Kelly- who is 67- wrapped himself in the flag to gag most of the White House press corps:
So I'm willing to take a question or two on this topic. Let me ask you this: Is anyone here a Gold Star parent or sibling? Does anyone here know a Gold Star parent or sibling? 
...Any other -- someone who knows a Gold Star fallen person. 
John? 
...I'll take one more, but it's got to be from someone who knows -- all right.
General Kelly is often cited as "one of the adults in the room" around the *resident and is rightly renowned for his probity and dedication to duty.

Part of duty is a dedication to the principle of civilian control of the military, and General Kelly showed, yesterday, just how far he is willing to go to uphold the principle, in principle. This morning on NPR, National Review's snarky frontman Jonah Goldberg summoned television memories (he was born five years after the general died) to draw a vague visual comparison between Kelly and General Douglas MacArthur-






-as a touchstone, praising him for his "gravitas, also this sort of amazing Douglas MacArthur-esque, ah, persona for a bygone era, nostalgic for, ah, an America that was, that sort of Jimmy Cooper, you know, spartan stoic reserve..."

General Kelly gave two speeches at once yesterday. One was a valuable, needful, explanation of the military's protocols for recovering and seeing home its dead. He then put a face on the tragedy of war: his own. To the horrific news that a parent has lost a child to war, one can only imagine the added anguish when both are soldiers.

The other speech, however, was another loyalty oath re-up with his boss.

Kelly- who in his months as Homeland Security Secretary was all in with the *resident's ramped-up deportation roundups, the export of American citizens, and the first two travel bans- proved himself an adept at the long-form version of presidential tweets:
I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and broken-hearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the President of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion -- that he's a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted. There's no reason to enlist; he enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. 
That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted. 
It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. 
Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.  
...And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying, and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this Earth. And you can always find them because they're in Arlington National Cemetery. I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed. 
...I'll end with this: In October -- April, rather, of 2015, I was still on active duty, and I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 -- a guy by the name of Grogan and Duke. Grogan almost retired, 53 years old; Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, and now retired. So we go down -- Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well, and law enforcement so well. 
There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were three or four years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there, and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives. 
And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money -- the $20 million -- to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. 
But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, okay, fine.
Having earned the *resident's approval by attacking a member of Congress for telling what a war widow-and friend- allowed her to hear (What was she supposed to do, put her fingers in her ears?)- not to mention keeping a straight face over the fact he and a roomful of aides were listening in at the *resident's end-  Kelly went on, Tillerson-like, to not deny what the *resident- and the member of Congress- said:

When I took this job and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. It’s nice to do, in my opinion, in any event.

He asked me about previous Presidents, and I said, I can tell you that President Obama, who was my Commander-in-Chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family. That was not a criticism. That was just to simply say, I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing. I don’t believe President Bush called in all cases. I don’t believe any President, particularly when the casualty rates are very, very high — that Presidents call. But I believe they all write.

So when I gave that explanation to our President three days ago, he elected to make phone calls in the cases of four young men who we lost in Niger at the earlier part of this month. But then he said, how do you make these calls? If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call.


Nor did General Kelly deny that the *resident uttered the tone-deaf condolences the *resident has denied:

So he called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could. And he said to me, what do I say? I said to him, sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.

Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, 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. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died, in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.

That’s what the President tried to say to four families the other day.


Had he stuck to what General Kelly told him, MOTUS would have done better. But he always knows better, and he lacks the grace to ever, ever admit he might have done anything better. He is, after all, a man who has never asked God to forgive him for a single thing in 71 depraved years:
"I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so," he said. "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't.
Charlie Pierce reviews the terms of the general’s contract with the devil:

This strikes me as a terribly sad moment. Everything and everybody this president* touches goes bad from the inside out. And it doesn’t matter to me whether people volunteered to work for him or not. In Oliver Stone’s Nixon, there’s a great scene on the Key Bridge at night where Ed Harris’s Howard Hunt warns a very tremulous John Dean, played by David Hyde-Pierce. Nixon, Hunt tells Dean, “is the darkness reaching out for the darkness in everyone.” That was true, but this is what we know now: in this, Nixon was a rank amateur. From The New York Times:

Mr. Kelly said that he was stunned to see the criticism, which came from a Democratic congresswoman, Representative Frederica S. Wilson of Florida, after Mr. Trump delivered a similar message to the widow of one of the soldiers killed in Niger. Mr. Kelly said afterward that he had to collect his thoughts by going to Arlington National Cemetery for more than an hour. In a remarkable, somber appearance in the White House briefing room, Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general whose son Second Lt. Robert Kelly was slain in battle in 2010, said he had told the president what he was told when he got the news.
“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed,” Mr. Kelly recalled. “He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we were at war.” “I was stunned when I came to work yesterday, and brokenhearted, when I saw what a member of Congress was doing,” he said. “What she was saying, what she was doing on TV. The only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go walk among the finest men or women on this earth."
That’s how he gets absolved. That’s how he always gets absolved. There’s always somebody willing to step up and push their soul to the middle of the table for him to gamble with and, when he loses, because he always loses at the game of being human, he reneges on the bet because that’s what he always does. Of all the “generals,” Kelly always was the one closest to being a true Trumpian; his tenure at Homeland Security overseeing ICE showed that Kelly at least was sympatico with the president*’s Id-driven hardball approach to immigration.And now, by deploying the memory of his son, he’s given his inexcusable boss that boss’s most recent alibi for that boss’s most recent offense against human decency and the dignity of his office. There’s a great sadness in that.
Sadder still is that it was all a pointless exercise. A few hours later, Donald Trump reached for his phone.

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