Many of us wondered if White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s evisceration of the Congresswoman from Florida who overheard Trump’s condolence call to the widow of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson was an aberration. After all, Kelly — a retired Marine general — is supposed to be one of the “grownups” around Trump.
Turns out Kelly has some strange and ahistorical beliefs of his own, most recently expressed to Laura Ingraham on Fox News:
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
“Men and women of good faith on both sides” … does that ring a bell? It should. Trump used the same language about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer.
Reputable historians are pushing back hard on Kelly’s notion that “a refusal to compromise” led to the Civil War. The compromise in question was the continued enslavement of millions of African Americans. Here is the comment of one historian, David Blight of Yale University:
“This is profound ignorance, that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative,” Blight said. “I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump who, let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But Gen. Kelly has a long history in the American military.”
According to this historian, Kelly’s statements reflect “profound ignorance.”
Who is left to be the grown-up keeping Trump within some semblance of boundaries? Mattis? Tillerson? Trump’s attorneys, who are apparently urging him not to fire Robert Mueller? Mueller himself? The press — not Fox News, but the real journalists who work for organizations like CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post?
Trump’s poll numbers are falling, even among his core supporters. I wonder how many are realizing what a profound misjudgment it was to vote for this highly unstable and manifestly ignorant man?
I wonder also how we get out of this without grave damage to our democracy, and I don’t think anybody knows.