He has joked about hurting journalists. He harshly criticized a black congresswoman, got his facts wrong, then refused to apologize. And this week he argued that Confederate statues should not be taken down, calling Robert E. Lee “an honorable man.”
That wasn’t President Donald Trump. That was his chief of staff, John Kelly, a former Marine general who has been seen as the “last, best hope” for the White House to become more effective. But Kelly’s public statements in recent weeks have shown that he agrees more with Trump’s view of the world than either his critics or his supporters previously thought.
Here’s a quick look at some of their agreements.
The United States faces constant threats from terrorism
Trump regularly talks about the major threat that the United States faces from “radical Islamic terrorism.” After federal judges blocked a version of his travel ban in February, he tweeted: “The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!”
In an interview on Fox and Friends in May, Kelly said that the threat of terrorism is “constant” and “nonstop.” “I was telling Steve on the way in here if he knew what I know about terrorism he’d never leave the house in the morning,” Kelly said, referring to the Fox host Steve Doocy. Asked if he meant those remarks tongue in cheek, he doubled down: “There are incredible plots against the United States, terrorism plots against the United States,” he said later.
America used to be a better place
Trump’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again. He’s often spoken about the “good old days” when he claims that law enforcement was tougher on criminals, argued that when he was in high school and college “everybody used to say we never lost a war” and said that people stopped saying “Merry Christmas” because it wasn’t “politically correct.”
Kelly has also lamented that America has changed, although his exact comments were different. “When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country,” he said at a news conference. He argued that “women were sacred” and “looked upon with great honor” when he was younger,” that “the dignity of life” was held in higher esteem and that “religion, that seems to be gone as well.”
Journalists are not your friend
Trump regularly attacks the press, arguing reporters are “tremendously dishonest” and that it’s “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” He likes to joke about his dislike of the media, making a crack about their unattractiveness during a recent Halloween event for reporters’ children in the Oval Office.
Like many chiefs of staff before him, Kelly has sought to more strictly control press access to the White House in the name of discipline. At a Coast Guard graduation in May, Kelly, then the head of Homeland Security, joked with Trump after he received a ceremonial saber: “Use that on the press, sir.” It was a lighthearted moment, but it may have showed a similar view of the press.
Rep. Frederica Wilson is not a good person
After Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson criticized Trump’s handling of a phone call with a military widow, Trump went on the attack, calling her “wacky” and arguing that lawmakers like her are “killing the Democrat Party.” He then doubled down, again calling her “wacky” and arguing that she is a “disaster for Dems” and the “gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party.”
At a White House press briefing in October, Kelly criticized Wilson as an “empty barrel” and said he was “stunned” and “appalled” that she took credit for getting funding for a building at an event he attended in Miami. The Miami Herald found video that showed Kelly got the facts wrong, but on Monday Kelly stood by his comments saying he would “never” apologize.
Confederate statues should not be taken down
In an interview in May, Trump argued the Civil War could have been prevented if leaders like Andrew Jackson had been alive to work out a compromise. In a press conference in August, Trump argued that statues honoring Confederate leaders should not be taken down, saying that would lead to statues of other historical figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson being taken down as well.
In an interview on Monday, Kelly called Confederate general Robert E. Lee “an honorable man,” said that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” and argued that it would be a mistake to take down Confederate statues because it would lead to unfair reassessments of historical figures like Christopher Columbus. “I think it shows you just how much of a lack of appreciate of history and what history is,” he said.
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