Friday, October 20, 2017 at 8:21 PM

Now Chief of Staff Kelly ‘Spicers’ Himself for Trump re Sgt. La David Johnson

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

And, with all due respect to Kelly, I was stunned.

To White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the conversation between the president of the United States and the spouse of a fallen soldier is ‘sacred’ …

President Trump has been on the receiving end of significant criticism after Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said he told a pregnant widow that her husband who was killed in an ambush in Niger knew what he signed up for. Trump denies he said those words, which the lawmaker called insensitive, to Myeshia Johnson.

Kelly said Thursday during the White House news briefing that he was shocked that Wilson was even a part of the conversation.

(Washington Post, October 20, 2017)

Trump’s presidency to date has been defined by a series of sideshows (a.k.a. media focus on “shiny objects”). And he has been both creator and ringmaster of each one.

He created this latest sideshow to distract from his Benghazi-like debacle in Niger. It began when a reporter asked why he failed for two weeks to call the loved ones of the four US soldiers killed in that ambush.

As he always does, Trump deflected blame. He claimed that, unlike Obama, he at least makes a point of always calling the Gold Star families of fallen soldiers. Unsurprisingly, this was just another bald-faced lie.

As the Washington Post and Associated Press have found in extensive reports on Trump’s calls to Gold Star families since taking office, a number of parents and spouses say they have yet to receive calls from the commander-in-chief. …

At a Monday press conference, he said former President Barack Obama and fellow predecessors did not call the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. …

It was a false claim that was met with scorn from former Obama administration aides, and Trump backed off the claim slightly when pressed further by reporters.

(Business Insider, October 20, 2017)

But enough about Trump because the real star of this sideshow happens to be the scene-stealing Kelly.

Incidentally, you’ve probably heard politicians and pundits alike bemoaning the unseemliness of talking about this sensitive topic. Yet they keep talking about it. I hope you find this as patently contrived as I do.

That said, Kelly entered stage right at the White House yesterday to condemn Congresswoman Wilson and defend his boss:

I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing. …

He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted — there was no reason to enlist, he enlisted. …

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation.

(Reuters, October 19, 2017)

For starters, I have been “stunned” at the willingness of so many people to betray their values and sacrifice their integrity for the sake of Donald Trump. I coined the verb “to spicer” to explain this phenomenon. I trust allusion is obvious.

It began during the presidential campaign with the Evangelical Christians who now compose his base. But establishment Republicans and members of his Cabinet have been equally eager to kneel at the altar of his ambition. For example:

I watched in shock and dismay last year as family-values Republicans tried to convince us that there was nothing hypocritical in standing by their man. This, despite Trump being exposed, time and again, as a profane, lying, narcissistic, pussy-grabbing misogynist.

I watched in shock and dismay last January as White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to convince us that the size of the crowd was bigger at Trump’s inauguration than Obama’s. This, despite pictures plainly showing the opposite.

I watched in shock and dismay last May as national security adviser H.R. McMaster tried to convince us that it was “no big deal” that Trump shared “highly classified information” with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. This, despite ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election.

And I watched in shock and dismay yesterday as chief of staff John Kelly tried to convince us that we should be more disgusted at Congresswoman Wilson than Trump. This, despite the fact that Wilson was merely defending Myeshia Johnson, the grieving widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, after Trump’s condolence call compounded her emotional distress. Not to mention that the only reason Wilson spoke out is that Mrs. Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s mother, and other family members felt Trump seemed devoid of compassion when he finally called to convey the nation’s condolences.

Of course, Kelly’s extraordinary performance warrants a few more points, because

  • I was stunned when Kelly dishonored his reputation as an officer and a gentleman by calling Wilson a self-aggrandizing opportunist and an “empty barrel” making the most noise. He told an elaborate story about how she took credit for congressional funding of an FBI building in 2009. But videotape from the occasion in question shows that he was lying through his teeth in a manner that only his lying boss could appreciate. An officer and a gentleman would apologize. Kelly has not. This means that only public shaming can force him to. For now, he seems happy to hide behind the skirt of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders – who warned reporters today that it’s “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general like Kelly about his political hit jobs. #Military Junta! #Banana Republic!

  • I was stunned when Kelly did not bite his tongue. After all, his boss is the biggest self-aggrandizing opportunist and empty barrel making the most noise in the history of American politics.
  • I was stunned when Kelly intoned that it was inappropriate for Wilson to listen in on the conversation between Trump and Mrs. Johnson. He was listening in, but he accused her of violating a sacred trust. Except that it’s arguable that he did. After all, Mrs. Johnson put Trump on speaker and allowed Wilson to listen in because Wilson practically raised Sgt. Johnson as his surrogate mother. On the other hand, this was not a conversation between Trump and another head of state or a member of Congress, which would have made Kelly listening in more understandable.
  • I was stunned when Kelly suggested that Mrs. Johnson should have been comforted by Trump using the same words Kelly’s best friend and fellow four-star general used to notify him of the loss of his son. He seemed unconcerned that, by invoking his own personal tragedy, he was making a mockery of the generally held view that he was too dignified to politicize the death of his son.

  • I was stunned when Kelly ended his press conference without even acknowledging the obvious emotional distress Trump’s call caused this Gold Star family. Evidently, he was strictly executing a direct order to clean up Trump’s mess. But the only honorable way to do this was to urge the president to call back to clarify and make amends. Frankly, nothing damns Kelly’s performance quite like this: The New York Times published the full transcript of his remarks, which amounted to 2,877 words. Yet you will not find among them a single utterance of the name of this fallen soldier or that of his grieving widow. The congresswoman shared that Mrs. Johnson was particularly aggrieved that Trump didn’t know her husband’s name. Wilson said he kept referring to Sgt. La David Johnson as “your guy ” during his condolence call. But Mrs. Johnson could be forgiven for thinking that Kelly, a fellow Gold Star survivor, didn’t know his name either … let alone hers.
  • I was stunned when Kelly lamented the honky-dory days of his 1950s childhood. He claimed that men treated women as sacred back then. Except that men treated most women as little more than Stepford wives back then. What’s more, many of his own female contemporaries would tell him that they thank God for the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • I was stunned when Kelly chastised politicians for dragging Gold Star families into their partisan spats. After all, nobody did this with more unbridled relish than when Trump bullied and demeaned the Gold Star family of Humayun Khan.
  • I was stunned when Kelly damned the culture of sexual harassment that led to Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. After all, nobody has contributed more to that culture than the president he took center stage to defend.

I could go on, but you get the point. Therefore, I’ll end with this:

To preserve what little remains of their reputation, the media would do well to stop hailing Kelly as the white knight of Trump’s wholly bankrupt administration. Likewise, to preserve what little remains of his reputation, Kelly would do well to think long and hard before attempting to clean up another of Trump’s messes. For it’s only a matter of time before Trump discards him the way he has discarded Spicer and so many others.

Johnson, the one left behind

As the above shows, the death of this black soldier led a white “four-star” general to malign a black congresswoman in defense of a white president. Given that, I’d be remiss not to share this:

Sgt. Johnson was the only one of the four Americans killed who was left behind after this ambush. I submit that the reason for this is that he was black and the other three were white.

Now it might be that, in the fog of battle, their French and American rescuers thought he was just one of the 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters Johnson’s 12-member team killed. But it speaks volumes that it took black soldiers from Niger to identify him as an American soldier and return him to his base two days after this battle.

Johnson’s fellow Green Berets have some ‘splainin’ to do, especially given how all branches of the US military proudly claim they never leave any soldier behind.

Related commentaries:
Evangelical Christians
McMaster/Spicer

* This commentary was originally published last night, Friday, at 8:21

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