For the past several days, the White House has been embroiled in a media-hyped scandal over President Donald Trump allegedly acting insensitively toward the widow of a fallen American soldier. Now the man in the administration most qualified to pass judgment on the matter weighed in with remarks that should put the controversy to rest for good.
It all started with President Trump’s phone call to Myeshia Johnson, whose husband Army Sgt. La David Johnson was killed during an ambush in Niger. Florida Democrat Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was with Johnson at the time of the phone call, publicly accused Trump of callously telling the widow that her husband “knew what he was getting into.”
However, the Hill reports that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general whose own son died in combat in Afghanistan, delivered a passionate defense of Trump and a blistering denunciation of Wilson and anyone else exploiting the tragedy of a fallen serviceman for partisan gain.
Here’s a video of a portion of Kelly’s remarks:
Video: Gut-wrenching stuff as Gen. Kelly describes his emotions upon seeing Democratic Rep. Wilson parading around blasting Trump pic.twitter.com/1quiR8ta0R
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 19, 2017
The Hill summarizes:
“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. I would have thought that was sacred,” Kelly said during a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room.
After learning of what he called Wilson’s “selfish behavior,” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general whose son was killed in battle in Afghanistan, said he was so taken aback that he walked for an hour and a half in Arlington National Cemetery to compose himself.
Speaking slowly and solemnly, he described Thursday what happened when he learned his son had been killed.
“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed,” Kelly remembered being told by his casualty officer, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent,” he added. “He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war” […]
“[The president] expressed his condolences in the best way that he could,” he said.
Politico has more:
“When I took this job and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it. Because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members, are looking forward to” […]
“He asked me about previous presidents, and I said I can tell you that President Obama, who was my commander in chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family,” Kelly said. “That was not a criticism. That was just to simply say I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing. I don’t believe President Bush called in all cases. I don’t believe any president, particularly when the casualty rates are very, very high, that presidents call.”
Some Democrats will surely take Kelly’s passionate words as a sign that it’s time to change the subject, but as is to be expected, there remain many on the Left — including Wilson herself [UPDATED; see bottom of post] — who still haven’t felt shamed enough to change their behavior, and in fact are doubling down:
“John Kelly’s trying to keep his job,” Wilson told POLITICO on Thursday. “He will say anything. There were other people who heard what I heard.”
“Distracted by the uniform.” A stunning & classless thing to say about a man who has worn it with distinction and sacrificed so much. https://t.co/aNGyaNcEU1
— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) October 19, 2017
The best and the worst of America all in one story, ladies and gentlemen.
UPDATE: Apparently Wilson’s office has been getting an earful; the Washington Examiner reports that since her initial reaction to Kelly’s comments, her office has issued a statement declaring that she “will not be making any further comment on the issue because the focus should be on helping a grieving widow and family heal, not on her or Donald Trump.”
We’ll see if that sticks, and how many of her fellow travelers follow suit.