Oct 7, 2017

A civilian salute to John Kelly's new reality

Kelly reacts as Trump calls North Korea a "band of criminals" during his address to the U.N. on Sept. 19. Photo: Mary Altaffer / AP

You are White House Chief of Staff John Kelly:

  • You are a true America hero — enlisting in the Marines and rising to become a highly decorated four-star general who once ran the entire U.S. Southern Command.
  • You gave your life to service. Your son, Marine Lt. Robert Kelly, 29, gave his in service, killed after stepping on a landmine while leading a platoon in Afghanistan.
  • Now, you spend your days cleaning up messes all around your Commander, the actual Commander-in-Chief — a guy who dodged the draft, and taunts or tramples on many of the things you feel and believe deep in your bones. Everyone knows you don't share his views, values or politics.
  • Most of your days, like those of your friend Rex Tillerson, blow.
  • You spend most of your time killing bad things: bad ideas, bad information flow, bad habits. You inherited an Island of Misfit Toys, and tossed out the most obnoxious ones.
  • You run a tight ship during workdays -- but lose total control of the wheel when your boss goes rogue, which is most nights, most mornings, most weekends.
  • Now scattered, Trump originals ask what exactly it means for you to do your duty as chief of staff. You feel your duty is to protect the nation from POTUS.
  • But some Trump loyalists won't concede that you're always right and DJT is always wrong. They think that sometimes it's their duty to subordinate their opinions to his. They ask: What's patriotic about thwarting the duly elected POTUS?
  • You cringe and sometime rage when you see the nasty tweets, the childish taunts, the wild improvisation.
  • You start watching Fox just to see what he sees, and read Breitbart for a glimpse of the world through the President's eyes.
  • You plot with Tillerson and SecDef Mattis and National Security Adviser McMaster, and find comfort and camaraderie in your pact to save the world from an impulsive president.

It's a worthy war — but often one you fear you are losing. No wonder you've been caught on camera with an exasperated face pressed firmly against your hand. It's a civilian salute to your new reality.

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