Before the Oct. 19 press conference at which White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly addressed the Gold Star controversy, the president’s chief of staff was widely viewed as the “grown-up” in this administration. Then, in a matter of an hour, he became “Steve Bannon Lite.”
The general went from Peggy Noonan wondering if he could “conquer the White House chaos” to Wes Pruden of the Washington Times declaring, “A grown-up finally takes command,” to even Jen Rubin of the Washington Post, who has had nothing good to say about the Trump administration, admitting he was off to a “good start” by firing White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
“His firing was immediately taken as a sign that new Chief of Staff John Kelly is on top of things,” Rubin wrote at the time. “We’re down to Mattis, I suppose,” she wrote after the Kelly press conference.
Rubin was referring to Trump critics’ claims that Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and Kelly were the only adults remaining in the Trump administration. After Kelly’s press conference, only Mattis was left as far as she was concerned.
“They were certain that Kelly was a ‘grown-up’ who understood that the president the American people elected was hobbled — morally, intellectually, temperamentally — and it was Kelly’s job to steer the ship of state away from the rocks. He wouldn’t lie to the American people as President Trump did, these Kelly fans believed,” Rubin wrote in her Oct. 23 Washington Post column.
“Recognition is now sinking in that Kelly is not so different than all the other politicians and officials who come in contact with Trump. To serve him requires suspension of integrity, and therefore those who serve become morally corrupted.”
And in an Oct. 23 column published by The Hill, columnist Bill Press recalled Kelly’s “fall from grace.”
“At first blush, it seemed that President Trump’s new chief of staff wasn’t a political hack, like his predecessor Reince Priebus. He wasn’t a right-wing extremist like Stephen Bannon, a sycophant like Kellyanne Conway, or a clown like Sean Spicer,” Press wrote. “Kelly was different. He was a level-headed, calming influence who operated above the political fray. Or so we thought. Now we know Kelly’s a political puppet for Trump, just like all the rest of them.”
Then it got even worse.
“General John Kelly Sold his Soul to the Devil, Diminishing Himself and His Son’s Memory,”, read a ChicagoNow.com headline, published Monday. The author of the post, Bob Abrams, attacked not only Kelly but his deceased son.
The media spent an entire news cycle on Kelly’s claim that Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson used the deaths of two FBI agents to her political gain – playing snippets of Wilson’s 2012 speech seemingly on repeat.
“General Kelly’s heretofore unblemished reputation is intertwined with the death of his son, Second Lieutenant Robert Kelly. Sadly, both have been diminished in what has become a pattern for those who are forced to defend and explain Donald Trump’s feckless and inarticulate abuse of the English language and his lies,” Abrams wrote.
HuffPost’s Michelangelo Signorile, in a post Sunday, referred to Kelly as “Steve Bannon Lite,” adding that Kelly is “much more experienced and efficient” than Bannon at keeping controversial actions, such as Trump’s illegal immigration policies and so-called Muslim travel ban, “as below-the-radar as possible.”
The media’s narrative before and after Kelly’s press conference may be different but only because he committed the greatest sin of all – he defended his boss, President Trump.