This Week In News: Tell Me Who Your Friends Are
“Tell me what company though keepest and I’ll tell thee what thou art.”
~ Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Chapter XXIII
This past week’s news cycle has been dominated by the mind-numbing scandal over whether presidents call the families of fallen soldiers and which presidents do it better (or at all). To recap, this is how it all went down, following a by-now well-trod path familiar to kindergarteners: first Trump insinuated that Obama never called any families to offer condolences for fallen service members; next, this allegation was proven false; next, Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on the false claim; then a Democratic Congresswoman from Florida, Frederica Wilson, accused Trump of making an insensitive remark to a military widow during a phone call; in response, Trump accused Wilson of fabrication; and it went downhill from there. As much as I despise Trump, this was, initially, an example of the outrage machine going into overdrive. It is well-known that Trump is inarticulate and has an obnoxious delivery, so he couldn’t convey a sensitive statement like one of condolences for a loved one if his life depended on it. Trump made a doody on Twitter, because it’s just another day (in paradise).
What was remarkable, however, was his Chief of Staff, John Kelly’s deeply shameful press conference on Thursday. In his statement (that the reviled Librul Fake News Media for some reason tended to characterize as “moving”), he essentially confirmed Wilson’s account of Trump’s phone call to the widow, but then attacked Wilson with a fresh claim that was proven false within hours. I don’t want to rehash all the back-and-forth. Here is a good summary.
I’ve never been enamored of John Kelly. The popular take on him is that he is one of the few “adults” in the administration, who has taken on the unenviable task of managing Trump and his rage-monkeys for the sake of the country. That’s one way to look at it, I suppose. Another way, a more sober one, I think, is that Kelly’s function is to add a veneer of respectability and seriousness to an administration that is corrupt, un-American, hateful, cruel and massively incompetent. And there is nothing honorable about that. There never was. Kelly’s Thursday speech merely confirmed what should have been obvious on the face of the fact that he chose to work for Trump: that he is a person without character, without shame, without values; in other words, just another Trumpista.
Thursday’s conference was a sickening display. Kelly denigrated civilians — i.e. people who are, pursuant to the Constitution, actually his real boss; people who made his military job necessary in the first place. He then would only take questions from reporters who have some kind of a connection to Gold Star families — everyone else being too morally and intellectually inferior to question him, a position the White House doubled down the next day. He was brazen enough to lament that women aren’t being held “sacred” anymore — an obvious dig at Harvey Weinstein and all the liberals who personally raped all the women with Weinstein’s dick. This was a remarkable degree of shameless from a man who decided to serve as a goblin to a draft dodger with a well-documented history of misogyny, including boasting of sexual assault, and one who repeatedly and explicitly disrespected members of the military when they dared criticize him.
On the other hand, as jaw-droppingly insulting Kelly’s performance was, it was not inconsistent with him being Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff. And to that extent, I disagree with the Atlantic piece linked above. Gen. Kelly didn’t besmirch himself at the Thursday’s conference. He besmirched himself when he signed up to work for the Trump Administration. He obliterated his reputation when he decided to use his stature, his good speaking abilities and the inherent respect Americans have for the military to legitimize an administration that came into power under the cloud of suspicion of collusion with a hostile foreign government; an administration being led by a civilian (!) who repeatedly rejected opportunities to serve his country in war, a man who repeatedly attacked a former POW and feuded with a Gold Star family, a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, faced his own slew of accusations of sexual exploitation and publicly called a former beauty contestant a “pig”; a man who claimed he knows more about how to conduct warfare properly than all “his” generals (Kelly included, presumably); a man who has no respect for truth and has repeatedly and outrageously lied about things both major and minor.
Choice quote among so many choice quotes:
When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. [ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME, DID HE REALLY SAY THAT???? OH YES, HE DID SAY THAT. THE FACT THAT HIS GRIMY LIPS DIDN’T STICK IN SAYING THIS PROVES THERE’S NO GOD.] That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases.
And, to add insult to the injury, Gen. Kelly lobbed a provably false accusation against a Trump critic and mischaracterized her 2015 speech as making other people’s sacrifice “about herself”. This, from the servant of a guy who has reframed every single event in our times as being about himself and his popularity. Was Gen. Kelly even there, as he claimed, to listen to Rep. Wilson’s 2015 speech that he so profoundly mischaracterized and lied about? Who the hell knows. I know — hope — that members of the Mean Fake News Media are checking his 2015 schedule as we speak. Given all the other lies he’s uttered and the constant lying by the administration he serves, I think it’s just as likely as not he wasn’t there. But maybe he was, and just misheard and misapprehended Wilson, because he was too distracted by reminiscing about the halcyon days when black people were held sacred — as mammies and entertainers — before progressives ruined it all and black people got all uppity in getting themselves elected to Congress and demanding that the cops stop killing black people for bullshit reasons, and acting like black people are more important than the flag and the national anthem, and now no one holds black people sacred anymore. I suppose it’s possible, but it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Except of course, in the entirely likely case that Kelly wasn’t there, that would mean that at least some White House staffers were ordered to put aside the business of governing this country for a few days and to busy themselves with oppo research on Rep. Wilson. That finding dirt on a member of Congress most Americans had not heard of until a week ago, because she was being mean to Trump, would become a national priority, ahead of North Korea, Iran, healthcare, taxes and everything else, is something that wouldn’t surprise me in the least about this administration. And when they couldn’t find any dirt, Kelly just made it up.
I am going to depart from the tradition here and not preface or conclude my entry with a disclaimer of how much I respect Kelly’s military service. Fuck that noise. His military service doesn’t earn him points redeemable towards lying and being a fascist goon. And, to the extent that he is a public servant (not Trump’s), any civilian is perfectly within his rights to call him on his misconduct. I’m sorry he lost his son, but that’s something I would have said about anyone, regardless of how their kid was killed, or whether or not they were a decorated member of the military. This is a tragedy by any measure. And it’s unfortunate, frankly, that Gen. Kelly is so loyal to Trump that he invoked that personal tragedy in an effort to justify Trump’s dishonesty, disrespect for the citizens and general lack of character.
At best, Kelly is a political whore. More likely, though, he’s in Trump’s camp because he embraces Trumpist values — racism, misogyny, cruelty, xenophobia, war-mongering and authoritarianism. He may be more articulate, and less impulsive in his attacks on critics, but he is just as profoundly immoral as Trump, and just as utterly devoid of honor or any sense of shame.
Nothing about this man is worthy of respect. Not the least his mischaracterization of his career as a “sacrifice”, especially now that it’s been deployed in support of sheer monstrosity that threatens to destroy this country.