Saturday, February 10, 2018

Getting Real About John Kelly

General John Kelly. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP
At last mainstream reporters have started reporting about the real General John Kelly.

What finally did Trump’s chief of staff in was the revelation that he'd shielded former White House staff secretary Rob Porter despite credible allegations of domestic violence from Porter’s two ex-wives. This followed bizarre episodes like Kelly’s rewriting of U.S. history and his lies about an African-American Congress member. But his record during the half-year he headed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have alerted observers to the man’s true character long before he moved to the White House.

Wasn’t it a problem that as DHS secretary he floated ideas for systematically separating child asylum seekers from their parents, and for deploying the National Guard in immigration raids? In March the administration suggested funding expanded immigration enforcement by gutting the Coast Guard, FEMA and the TSA, parts of the government that sometimes may actually help protect people. If Kelly objected to this bizarre plan, he didn’t say so. In April he suggested that Congress members who criticized his department’s immigration raids should change the immigration laws or else “shut up.” And why did reporters and editorial writers think the Trump team chose Kelly for the post? A general headed immigration operations in the 1950s, and the result was “Operation Wetback.” (See this, along with a correction.)

With all this information against Kelly, media like the New York Times still managed to write that the man was “sensible.” Now that we know otherwise, the Times still isn’t quite admitting to a mistake. In an article noting that “Mr. Kelly has drawn a string of unwelcome headlines,” Times reporters Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman explain that “[w]hen he took the White House job last summer, [Kelly] was seen by many as a mature figure who could impose order on a chaotic building.”

Who were the “many” who saw Kelly this way? Not the immigrants who'd been swept up in his immigration raids.

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