John Kelly dis­counts Slav­ery’s Civil War rel­e­vance

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ZEKE MILLER

WASH­ING­TON (AP) - In his three months on the job, John Kelly has been cred­ited with bring­ing or­der to a chaotic West Wing, but don’t call him a mod­er­ate. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s chief of staff was the en­forcer of Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, has fre­quently crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent’s en­e­mies, and this week echoed his boss’ de­fense of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments.

It all sug­gests that “The Chief,” as he is known among aides, may have in­stilled or­der, but he is more ide­o­log­i­cally aligned with Trump than many be­lieved.

Much has been made of the im­agery of Kelly si­lently lurk­ing on the side­lines of pres­i­den­tial ad­dresses, seem­ing to cringe when Trump gets out of line. But it may be wish­ful think­ing by Trump’s crit­ics to be­lieve that he’s tug­ging the pres­i­dent in another di­rec­tion.

White House of­fi­cials and Kelly al­lies say he is not so much par­ti­san as he is ide­o­log­i­cal, hold­ing hawk­ish views on is­sues like im­mi­gra­tion and na­tional se­cu­rity.

One ally, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to de­scribe pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, said Kelly was un­doubt­edly con­ser­va­tive in mind­set. The ally said Kelly’s strik­ing Oct. 19 press con­fer­ence la­ment­ing the na­tion’s di­min­ish­ing re­spect for women, re­li­gion and Gold Star fam­i­lies bared his true feel­ings.

Kelly also has proven to be no stranger to con­tro­versy. His de­fense of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments Mon­day in an in­ter­view with Fox News ’Laura In­gra­ham eclipsed even ear­lier com­ments by Trump, as he praised Con­fed­er­ate com­man­der Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honor­able man,” Kelly told In­gra­ham.

“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.”

Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus Chair Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, D-La., a fre­quent critic of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, said in a state­ment that Kelly “needs a his­tory les­son” for ig­nor­ing slav­ery as the root cause of the con­flict.

“He is start­ing to sound a lot like his boss,” Rich­mond said.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders de­fended Kelly’s com­ments, cit­ing a sin­gle his­to­rian’s as­sess­ment of the war’s roots.

“I’m not go­ing to get up here and re-lit­i­gate the Civil War,” San­ders said.

And White House spokesman Raj Shah cred­its Kelly with en­sur­ing Trump gets “the best coun­sel and can con­tinue mak­ing the right de­ci­sions for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Kelly’s star rose in the Trump or­bit ear­lier this year in part be­cause of the world­view he shares with the pres­i­dent. A re­tired Marine gen­eral who led the U.S. South­ern Com­mand, Kelly moved swiftly to en­force — and then de­fend — the pres­i­dent’s con­tro­ver­sial travel ban, which re­mains tied up in lit­i­ga­tion.

And Trump cred­ited Kelly, then the sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity, for his tough talk on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

In a speech in April, Kelly told law­mak­ers to “shut up and sup­port the men and women on the front lines,” and to change im­mi­gra­tion laws if they don’t agree with how they are be­ing en­forced. The pre­vi­ous month, he an­nounced that his de­part­ment was con­sid­er­ing sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies cross­ing the bor­der il­le­gally in a bid to de­ter their mi­gra­tion.

Trump took to mar­veling at statis­tics show­ing re­duced cross­ings along the na­tion’s south­ern bor­der, and cred­ited Kelly as his most ef­fec­tive Cab­i­net sec­re­tary, of­fi­cials said.

Kelly has also made clear he shares Trump’s frus­tra­tion with the me­dia, mock­ing anony­mously sourced sto­ries of palace in­trigue and what he per­ceives to be a neg­a­tive tone in cov­er­age. At the Coast Guard Academy com­mence­ment on May 17, then-Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kelly joked that Trump ought to take a gifted cer­e­mo­nial sword and “use it on the press.”

After Trump drew crit­i­cism for the tone of his call with the widow of a fallen ser­vice mem­ber, Kelly an­grily at­tacked Rep. Fred­er­ica Wil­son, D-Fla., who had de­scribed the pres­i­dent’s con­ver­sa­tion with the widow to re­porters.

He went on to de­liver a fac­tu­ally in­ac­cu­rate con­dem­na­tion of a speech Wil­son had given years ear­lier, ac­cus­ing her of us­ing the fam­i­lies of fallen law en­force­ment of­fi­cers for po­lit­i­cal gain and re­fer­ring to the con­gress­woman as an “empty bar­rel.”

Kelly told In­gra­ham he had noth­ing to apol­o­gize for: “For some­thing like that, ab­so­lutely not. I stand by my com­ments.”

Since his ar­rival in the White House on July 31, Kelly has fo­cused his ef­forts on tight­en­ing the flow of in­for­ma­tion to the pres­i­dent and re­form­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cesses. But he has in­sisted that his role is not to man­age Trump, but to man­age those around him.

“I was not sent in to, or brought in to con­trol him,” Kelly told re­porters on Oct. 12. “And you should not mea­sure my ef­fec­tive­ness as a chief of staff by what you think I should be do­ing.”

Kelly de­clined a re­quest to be in­ter­viewed.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF NATIONOFCHANGE

John Kelly

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