Remember a few months back, when the entering White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was supposed to bring stability to the White House? News commentators were bubbling with hope, saying, “Now that John Kelly is there, he may bring some order.” And we cannot leave out this cliché: “John Kelly is the adult in the room.”
These expectations seemed to be based on not much more than Kelly is a respected general with gray hair and a sober expression. The thinking was, “Hey, a military man who looks this official will surely make a difference.” But of course, no one person will bring normalization when the president is this abnormal.
John Kelly did put some things in order. He got rid of one of the most memorable in a string of memorable characters, Anthony Scaramucci, after “the Mooch” somehow mooched the Communications Director job. He made sure that everyone in the staff goes through him and stopped people from randomly walking into the Oval. And he ensured that highly classified information flowed directly to the president in an organized fashion through the hands of a credibly accused wife beater who could not get a permanent security clearance. Oh, and Kelly wanted to give that same guy a promotion. Plus, it turned out that more than 100 White House staff members served without full security clearances. At the same time, top officials keep running for the door. Hold on. I’m starting to think that John Kelly is not the great very-white hope he was made out to be.
In fairness, there is only so much Kelly can do. How much chaos can you contain when right before an election, your guy paid off a porn star to not talk about a sexual affair, and when that is not nearly the biggest scandal of the administration?
(An aside about Stormy Daniels: She was paid $130K in hush money. Doesn’t that amount seem low? I don’t think that is enough compensation just to sleep with Trump, much less to cover buying silence.)
John Kelly has not only been portrayed as a White House savior, he has also been depicted as a truly upstanding person. Well, I hate to break it to everyone, but the “adult in the room” is a jerk.
We should have gotten that message about Kelly many months ago when he went to the podium to criticize Representative Frederica Wilson, calling her an “empty barrel” and lying about what she said in a speech. We should have gotten that message when, in the same breath, he lamented about the loss of sacredness and decency in our country—yes, while working for the very epitome of indecency. And somehow, while serving Trump, Kelly laid this diminishing of decency on Representative Wilson and the Muslim Khan family, whose son was killed in Iraq while fighting for America. People praised Kelly after this display. I too praise his words about losing his own son and feel tremendous compassion for him for that. But the rest of it? It was appalling and hypocritical.
Kelly did not stop there. Last October, about the Civil War, he called Robert E. Lee, “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state,” said, “… Men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand,” and “The lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” Both sides. Remind you of Trump’s comments about Charlottesville, anyone? Many were confident that Kelly chose to work for Trump for the good of the country despite his own values. No, it sounds like they share the same values.
More recently, the Chief of Staff called DREAMers who did not sign up for DACA “lazy” and followed it up with, “I gotta say that some of them just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up.” (I don’t know—maybe they were scared to?)
So many assumed because of Kelly’s background, status as a general, and even the way he looks, that he must be the guy to bring discipline and that he must be a stellar individual. I have four words about discipline: Rob Porter, Jared Kushner. And I have one word about Kelly’s above statements: prejudice.
At this point, can we finally give up the fantasy that anyone is going to bring real order to this White House? The House is a mess, and it will stay a mess.