Earlier on Thursday, October 19th Trump’s Chief-of-Staff General John Kelly spent approximately 18 minutes speaking to reporters during the daily press briefing. His appearance was designed to contain the outcry of the Trump’s reported comments to a widow of one of the four Green Berets killed in Niger.
The story began when Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) reported that during his conversation, which she heard as the widow had put the call on speaker, told the grieving woman “He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” As Trump demonstrated last year during the Democratic Convention, he has no problem attacking Gold Star families if they happen to criticize or disagree with him.
True to form, Trump sent out the following tweet:
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Needless to say, this only fueled the debate. The White House later admitted that there is no recording of the conversation (Lordy, I was hoping there were tapes) but that Trump’s side of the conversation was heard by several people, including his Chief-of-Staff General Kelly.
So what are some of the take-aways from General Kelly’s remarks.
He Advised The President NOT To Make The Calls
Trump had been coming under increasing pressure from the press and social media about his silence regarding the deaths of the four Green Berets killed earlier this month in Niger. During a speech the day before he only made the situation worse by claiming that most of his predecessors, especially President Obama, never called the families of soldiers KIA and pointed out General Kelly as someone who did not receive a call from Obama.
General Kelly did not deserve to have the death of his son in combat to be turned into a political weapon by Donald Trump. But Trump, who had no clue what was expected from him as Commander-in-Chief,nevertheless decided to ignore Kelly’s advice and make the phone calls anyway.
Trump LIED When He Said The Congresswoman “Totally Fabricated What I Said”
Kelly admitted during the press briefing that as he tried to advise Trump on what to say, he recounted the words from the casualty officer who reported his own son’s death from him. That man used the phrase “he knew what he was signing up for” as just one part of a totally sympathetic message to Kelly.
Can there be any doubt that he repeated this phrase to Trump, who then decided to use it in his conversation with the widow? In fairness to all concerned, nobody has a transcript of the entire conversation and if this remark was taken out of context. But Trump’s tweet saying it was a total fabrication and that he had proof were two lies in one tweet.
Why Was It Wrong For the Congresswoman to Listen To The Phone Call, But Fine For General Kelly To Do The Same Thing?
General Kelly took multiple shots at Congresswoman Wilson for listening in on a “sacred” conversation between the president and the widow. But why was it wrong for her, but okay for him? It now turns out that Congressman Wilson had been a mentor to Sgt. La David Johnson and was in the car to comfort his widow. It was his widow who put the call on speaker.
Kelly only referred to her as “that congresswoman” on several occasions and even went back to the dedication of a new F.B.I. building in Miami to attack her for making comments on that occasion.
Gold Star Families Were “Sacred” Until Last Year’s Convention
In fact, General Kelly went on to list, without the least hint of irony, several things he said used to be considered “sacred.”
Women – “grab ’em by the pussy”
Religion – “Two Corinthians”
and “Gold Star Families”
Now this last one is a puzzler. Was Kelly condemning Clinton for allowing the Khan family to speak about their son who had been killed serving his country, or was this his way of saying that Trump should not have attacked them viciously afterwards? Because that is exactly what Trump did. And not just once, but on multiple occasions.
The Final Take Away
General Kelly gave a moving and poignant account of what Gold Star families go through when a loved one is lost. He made it perfectly clear that he did not consider in any way hurt or aggrieved that President Obama did not personally call him. He went on to clarify that when there are large numbers of casualties, it is virtually impossible for any president to call all the family members. But that letters are always sent.
Kelly’s press conference did not help Donald Trump. It was sad and embarrassing that Trump would send him out in an attempt to defend him. He essentially confirmed that Trump’s tweet was an out-and-out lie and that, at least in the case of Donald Trump, it can be better to make no call than to make a terrible one.
He also demonstrated that Trump does not listen to his advisors, but does whatever he wants, no matter how much damage it causes or who gets hurt in the process.