Remember when John Kelly was chosen to restore order in the White House? It was only a few months ago. The talking heads on TV effusively praised the new chief of staff. He was, after all, a former Marine general, and the media in this country think more highly of generals than saints.
For a while, Kelly was seen but rarely heard, and it was sketchily reported that he was making progress on the job, blocking the door against corrupt bozos who previously had easy access to the Oval Office. A widely seen photo showed him backstage hanging his head as Donald Trump told reporters that both sides were to blame for violence at a protest by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. I think we were supposed to believe Kelly was a man of principle, measured and careful, embarrassed by the remarks of his clownish, bigoted boss.
But there’s something wrong with this picture. Why would an upstanding old soldier like Kelly sign on with a draft-dodging, fraudulent sociopath like Donald Trump? Was he a high-minded public servant trying rescue Trump from his own stupidity and nastiness, or just a rigid right-winger who liked being close to the center of power?
We might still be guessing if Kelly hadn’t spoken out against the mother of a slain black soldier who said Trump disrespected her. If he hadn’t compared the present to the good old days when religion and women were “sacred.” If he hadn’t said the Civil War could have been avoided through compromise on slavery. If he hadn’t said he’d only take questions from reporters who were “gold Star parents or siblings.” (Kelly’s son was killed in action in Afghanistan.)
Turns out Kelly has a lot in common with his boss, who brings out the worst in all who get close to him. Lie down with Trump and you get up smelling like shit, even if you’re a general and a Gold Star dad.