Quick Takes: The Mythological Past Embraced by John Kelly

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

I want to say a couple of things about John Kelly’s emotional remarks at the press briefing this afternoon since that is the big news right now. He spoke at length defending Trump’s phone call to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson.

* First of all, it is important to remember how all of this started. A journalist asked Trump why he hadn’t commented on the death of four soldiers in Niger. Instead of answering that question, the president talked about how he’d written letters to the families of the soldiers and planned to call them, even though Obama and other presidents didn’t always to that. We might not ever know why Trump decided to go that direction rather than answer the question he was asked. But he is the one who put this whole conversation about what should be a private matter between grieving families and the Commander-in-Chief on the table.

* Secondly, after deciding to call these families, Trump apparently asked Kelly what he should say. Here is how Kelly described his response:

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.

What we have is a father relating a call that had been meaningful to him when he lost his son to Trump – a man who has demonstrated over and over again that he has no capacity for empathy. So it’s obvious that the president did say “he knew what he was getting into.” But it is very likely that in doing so, he stripped it of the meaning it had for Kelly and came off very badly in the process.

* Thirdly, John Kelly is given a lot of credit for being a level head that has done his best to keep the lid on some of Trump’s more erratic behavior. But what is left out of that is the fact that the president initially hired him as Sec. of DHS with specific responsibility for implementing his “deport ’em all” approach to undocumented immigrants. By all accounts Kelly embraced that task and performed it well. So we need to remember that in most ways, Kelly embraces Trump’s agenda. Based on his statements today, that includes nostalgia for a mythical past.

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.

The idea that sexual assault and harassment are a recent phenomenon that weren’t present in some mythological past when women were honored is bullshit. And if Kelly finds it so offensive, one has to wonder why he’d work for a man who bragged about grabbing women’s p*ssies.

Beyond that, his contention that the dignity of life, religion and reverence for Gold Star families are all gone is bullshit too. Kelly seems to ignore that it was his boss who attacked a Muslim Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, mercilessly after his remarks at the Democratic Convention. It sounds like, instead, Kelly is offended that Khan exercised the free speech rights his son had died protecting.

These are the kinds of things we hear all the time from those nostalgia voters Trump appealed to. Kelly is proof that people who buy those lies inhabit all different classes and professions.

* Finally, the worldview of folks like Kelly is not just toxic, it’s depressing. I need some cleansing after diving into all of that. This outta do it:

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.