MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Former General John Kelly, White House chief of staff, recently managed to besmirch the wife and mother of Sergeant La David Johnson, along with defaming Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-California), taking Trump's side in an undignified attempt to discredit a Gold Star family. Kelly attempted to bolster Trump's claim that the president didn't dishonor Johnson in a bungled condolence phone call to Johnson's wife. It was clear at that point that Kelly was not going to be a bland general trying to rein in chaos in the White House; he was going to be a public Trump enabler.
This past Monday, Kelly doubled down on his backing of another one of Trump's egregious stances that statues honoring Civil War figures were part of the nation's history -- dedicated to men who should be respected for their heritage, bravery and convictions. This Trump stance came to the fore after the infamous rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, organized by hate groups rallying around a Robert E. Lee statue. On August 17, Trump tweeted, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments."
An October 31 ThinkProgress article reported,
During an interview on the debut edition of Laura Ingraham’s new Fox News show Monday night, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly praised Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and openly expressed sympathy for the Confederate cause.
Asked about a Virginia church’s decision to remove a plaque honoring Lee, Kelly said, “I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man....”
Kelly went on to offer an odd analysis of the cause of the Civil War, attributing it to a “lack of an ability to compromise” rather than the Confederacy’s insistence on maintaining the institution of slavery.
On Twitter, political writer Ta-Nehisi Coates called Kelly's resurrection of the fantasy of an "honorable" slavery-based society "creationist theory." In short, it has no basis in historical reality but is an act of personal belief.
After Kelly was criticized for his Civil War remarks on Fox, the White House fiercely defended him, according to Politico:
The White House on Tuesday condemned as “absurd and disgraceful" the blowback to chief of staff John Kelly’s assertion a day earlier that the Civil War was prompted by an inability to compromise.
“I think it is absurd and disgraceful to keep trying to make comments and take them out of context and mean something they simply don’t,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters when she was asked about the criticism of Kelly....
In a news summary email, ThinkProgress offered some further thoughts on the Kelly both-sides-are-to-blame perspective on the Civil War:
Kelly … co-opted Trump’s “both sides” talking point by insisting that people on both sides of the Civil War made their stance based on their conscience. Most ludicrously, he claimed that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” In reality, slavery was the reason the Civil war was fought. The Union refused to compromise with the lives of human beings.
This notion that Trump and Kelly maintain -- that slavery and the Confederacy can be blended into a positive US "heritage" -- is staggeringly dangerous. To believe that there could be a "compromise" to the ownership of other human beings is to be a Confederacy sympathizer.
Kelly is going beyond dog-whistle racism to suggest that maybe slavery in the ante-bellum period was not as uncompromisingly evil as it was -- and he is doing so while providing cover for a virulently racist president. That is indefensible.