Donald Trump’s mantra is, “are you gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?” When caught in blatant, outrageous lies he doubles and triples down even if video and audio proof of the lies exist. Last week his Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, did the same, raising serious questions about his qualifications and integrity.
Kelly, during a rare and impassioned press White House press briefing where he emotionally described the process of bringing home slain soldiers, accused Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, who’s been at the center of a controversy surrounding the president’s comments during his phone call to the Gold Star family of fallen soldier La David T. Johnson, of bragging about her role in securing funding for a South Florida F.B.I. building.
Here’s what Kelly said happened at the dedication ceremony:
"...a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money — the $20 million — to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”
The big problem is, a video released by The Sun Sentinel disproves Kelly’s entire account of Wilson’s comments, which pertain to the building’s naming—after two slain FBI agents—not it’s funding; show her praising her Republican counterparts, not herself; and makes no mention of her personally contacting Obama. But instead of immediately saying, “Oops, my bad! Sorry! I got it wrong” Kelly, along with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, held firm. They doubled down. Just like Trump when he lies.
One thing’s certain: either Kelly was misinformed about Wilson’s comments; or he, like his perpetually dishonest boss, is blatantly lying; or worse, he’s a racist.
The least offensive, although not terribly reassuring scenario, is that a Trump aide with nefarious motives—Stephen Miller perhaps—knowingly gave the general incorrect intel so that he’d spread it at the podium, thus furthering the administration’s divisive narrative and serving as cover from the Gold Star fallout. This means Kelly, a retired four-star general and now in one of the most powerful political positions in the country, was manipulated like a puppet. Not a pretty picture.
Or, Kelly is a blatant liar, choosing to perpetuate the lie, refusing to apologize even when contradicted by the video. A willful intent to deceive the media and the American public makes the picture even uglier.
The ugliest picture, and a totally plausible one considering the consistent racist behavior of the Trump administration from the top down, is that Kelly is simply a racist. That he saw the video, heard Wilson’s comments, but when they passed through his bigoted filter what came out was...an uppity Southern black woman in a stupid hat taking credit away from more deserving white people. And it incensed him. Left him “stunned.” So stunned that he kept repeating the word stunned.
Kelly was so damned stunned by what he believed was Rep. Wilson’s attempt to take credit for something. To brag. Yet he works for the most self-aggrandizing, self-promoting, bloviating braggart in the history of mankind. Who gave himself a “10 out of 10” on handling Puerto Rico’s post-hurricane response despite the fact that much of the island is still without power, water, food, medicine and housing. That’s an awful lot of bragging and credit taking, which doesn’t appear to stun the good general.
Kelly also doesn’t appear stunned to be working for a sexist, racist, Nazi-sympathizing, pathologically-lying, sexual-abusing sociopath who mocks disabled people; resorts to juvenile, demeaning name-calling; disrespects and picks fights with war heroes, Gold Star families, grieving widows and the Pope; undermines the intelligence community and judiciary; labels the media “the enemy of the people;” and alienates our allies while emboldening our enemies.
I find that stunning.