It is important that General John F. Kelly be afforded the proper amount of respect due to his position, his career and the honor with which he comports himself, both professionally and personally. He certainly does command respect above and beyond the call of duty afforded to him by his Gold Star status. Having said that, I am saddened by the disservice he has rendered by deciding that loyalty to the president is more important than to the nation. I have written on several occasions the great burden that has been placed upon him by virtue of the president’s total incapacity to carry out his duties as Commander-in-Chief here.
Many have placed a heavy burden upon his responsibility, real or imagined, to prevent chaos and control Donald Trump. It has now become readily apparent that he is the wrong man for the job of Chief-of-Staff. I am sure that he has mastered the art of military politics, after all he has amassed four stars thus he certainly knows how to work the levers of power within the chain of command structure that is a career in military service. But yesterday he showed how unsuited he is to the role of presidential advisor and has succumbed to the manipulation of electoral politics.
General, you have every right to be “disgusted” with the politicization of the process of informing relatives that a loved one has died in service to his/her country. This should be a sacred trust shared by as few as possible. But it is your boss who initiated politicizing the process of notification as well as having dragged your son into the political fray. It was not the Congressional representative in Florida, or the family and friends who were involved on that phone call who are responsible for the predicament you and the president now find yourselves in.
You painfully laid out to the president what he needed to say. You are also painfully aware of his estrangement with the concept of empathy and his continuing battle with the spoken word and for that matter the English language. Under any circumstance to assume that he could portray comfort to grieving family members and friends by implying that their loved one knew what he was getting into represents callous disregard for the depth of grief they are suffering. Common decency and a modicum of judgement dictates the demeanor that must be exercised in such a painful moment. Over analyzing the right words to say and how to say it shows a passion only for getting through the exercise. It is distasteful, insincere, and as you can see has made a political spectacle of a solemn responsibility.
No one who has lived in this world has avoided the unhappiness of death and not been called upon to comfort someone in grief. We do not practice what the best approach or the most comforting thing to say is. If we care we simply offer our deepest sympathies and console them in a way that is honest, deeply felt, and unrehearsed. Sympathy or even empathy is not an audition, it is heartfelt, it is an essential human emotion that shows that we have the best interests of those we are trying to console foremost in our thoughts. The president has implicated your son in this sordid affair and you have implicated yourself by offering advice on how to handle it. My God, this is supposedly a grown man with awesome responsibilities at his fingertips, you think he needs to be treated like a child? Obviously he does, obviously you realize that, and just as obviously that is why you should withdraw from the thankless job you have undertaken.
No one can expect that this president is capable or expressing himself in the manner that came so naturally to his predecessor. No one expects that the president is capable of oratorical eloquence or intellectual capacity to rival 44. In fact, after George W. Bush’s personally written delivery yesterday it is unlikely that anyone can now expect 45 capable of matching 43. So be it. This is not a contest, it is a test of humanity that comes from a deeply held conviction that others are hurting and need comforting. Nothing more, nothing less.
Donald Trump has no sense of human compassion for anything other than his own feelings. Realizing this he has neither a right nor any business being put in a position to fake it. It only makes things abundantly worse. He, like you, is simply in the wrong job.
General, you are not a miracle worker and you cannot change the man. Unfortunately that is the mantle of responsibility you assumed the moment you accepted this job. It may not seem fair or right but it is the sobering reality of the situation you find yourself in. You must accept it and come to a decision as to whether or not you can continue to torture your natural inclinations by enabling a person who does not represent the values, ideals, and moral authority that is essential to serving the nation and its citizens. You do not serve the man, your service is much larger than that. The political maelstrom that has engulfed you is not of your making yet you have allowed it to consume your better judgement.
Do not allow yourself to be consumed by the false adulation that you have a duty to prevent chaos and must therefore continue to destroy your reputation, honor, and devotion to country as if the whole world rests upon your shoulders. It doesn’t.
If you stay and continue on this dangerously destructive course you will be forever associated with it. History will not record that you went down with the ship clinging to the wheel as if just a sharp turn to starboard might negate the fact that water is in the wheelhouse. This does not require you to “go gentle into that good night” but rather to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (Dylan Thomas)
You have tasted the kool-aid and it has a sour bite to it. But it is intoxicating. Eventually it will poison you.