Friday, October 20, 2017

The Wages of Sin

Like most stories these days, you can't keep up with the pace of the details.  Already Charlie Pierce has said John Kelly "is better than this."  But he only means Rep. Wilson was a friend of the Johnson family from the time Sgt. Johnson was a child, and that she denied Kelly's story about bragging about getting funding for a federal building, and Kelly shouldn't have been so hard on her.

Turns out Kelly not only shouldn't have attacked her, but he lied about her, too:

In the speech, Wilson describes how she and congressional leaders worked together to pass legislation to name the FBI building, after the starting the process just four weeks prior to the dedication ceremony at the agency’s request. She said it was a “miracle” that the bill passed both chambers and was signed by President Barack Obama in time.

She said that her effort and that of her colleagues who also pushed for the bill “speaks to the respect that our Congress has for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day.”

She then honored FBI agents gathered in the room, as well as the two special agents who died in a gunfight in 1986, Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, for whom the new building was named.

“We are proud of their sacrifice, the sacrifice for our nation. It is only fitting that their names be placed on the same mantel as the FBI,” she said in the speech.

Kelly lied; or he "misrepresented" her speech; or he was mistaken about what she said, his memory was faulty, he was confused; he was inadvertently in error.  Does it matter what the excuse will be?  He made it up out of whole cloth, presented it as true, and damn the consequences because it served his purpose.  Just like his boss does.

Kelly isn't "better than this."  We just thought he was, mostly because he once wore a military uniform, and we all still have a soft spot for tough men who talk about honor and tradition.  It makes it harder for us to see how dishonorable they are, and that their tradition is used to cover up lies.

George W. Bush, who is still being excoriated for not wearing a hair shirt in public when he made his remarks, had this remarkably Niebuhrian thing to say to us all:

Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.
Whatever Trump's best intentions in that phone call, he failed miserably.  Now the defense is to judge the critics by their worst examples, even if we have to invent them.  That's a very Trumpian defense.  To reach for it is not to reach beneath yourself, because so few people would ever try to reach that low.  Yesterday Pierce called this a "tragic error."  The tragic hero has a flaw that causes him to crack under the right pressure.  This is not the result of a flaw; this is an indicator of character.  The tragic hero is tragic because he takes responsibility for his error, for the consequences of his failure.  There is no hero here, tragic or otherwise, except the slain soldier.  What we are seeing, in what should be a inconsequential event, is the true nature of the people involved.

John Kelly is not better than this, and he doesn't work for Donald Trump as an amanuensis for the rest of us.  This is who we have allowed into the White House, and who he surrounds himself with.  Trump is not poisonous and inflicting his poison on others, and he's not bringing out the darkness in others.  They are there because they think like him and agree with him and want to work with him.

And that's where the darkness is coming from.


  1. I think O'Donnell is right about one thing, it's clear that Kelly doesn't consider Black Women to be sacred and he is definitely someone who figures he can lie about them without it diminishing him. He was pushing the same buttons Trump relies on being there for his pushing. I think he did that intentionally and there wouldn't be any price in risking it.

  2. Kelly didn't do it because of Trump, except insofar as Trump gave him license.

    This is who Kelly is, and always has been. It's not his "tragic flaw," it's his debased character. Rising to high office is not a measure of fitness as a human being. I remember a General under Kennedy who wanted to nuke all our enemies away. And Trump is president even though so many seem to believe our system would never allow a person of such low character to be in such high office.

    "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." More and more I reflect on the truth of that.