Dispatches from Wolf Country — Hi diddle diddle, file from the middle

I listened to the shock and dismay of various people on TV over that remark and thought that they probably should get out more and mingle with real people. But, Kelly is an educated and disciplined senior individual representing the President of the United States. That was an incredibly dumb thing to say, and Kelly is not a dumb man.

John Kelly, Trump White House Chief of Staff, Susan Walsh/AP Photo, 2017

I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation. — Raz Shah, Assistant Press Secretary, 8 FEB 2018

I think that is the first time I have heard this administration admit a mistake. –Yameesh Alcindor, National Public Radio on Kaysie DC, MSNBC, 11 FEB 2018

The secret to being a successful manager is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds yet. — Casey Stengel

Been an interesting period out here in the high desert. For one thing, despite it being what is historically our wettest month and following the “end of the drought” it hasn’t rained significantly for months and it’s hot enough that people are running their A/C units. I suspect the universe is getting us ready for the Trump Climate change, when he has to wear those shorts he like to golf in with his sports coats and too long ties on his way to the helicopter.

It has not been interesting enough to distract me from the spectacle of Trump and his lackeys menus of memos though. Those pings are body blows at times and sometimes are hammer blows.

Jimmy Breslin’s wrote his first book when he was primarily a sports writer, covering the New York Metropolitans’ kickoff season. That year, the Mets set a record for being inept, ill-disciplined and untalented. Casey Stengel had lost the World Series the year before to the Pirates, and the Yankee owners decided to let him go, assuming he’d ride off into the sunset. Refusing to go, he got the managerial job getting to take the Mets. Casey had played with and managed some horrible teams in his career, but it had been a while. He went from Mickey Mantle in Center, Roger Maris in Right, Yogi Berra either behind the plate to basically Who, What, Where, When and Why on the field. After watching somebody do something horrible on the field — drop a fly ball letting multiple runs score, not covering second on a steal and then forgetting to get the ball in center field, allowing the runner to get around the bases and score the winning run, something like that– he complained to Breslin and others after the game, possibly at a bar because Casey and the sportswriters drank a bit, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Casey Stengel, Praying for a Mets Rainout, 1961; CMG Worldwide Photo

Kelly, Mattis and various other adults in Congress or DOD or DOJ or GSA or any other of agencies and roles could be excused of asking the same question for much the same reason. It seems like Kelly has either given up or isn’t as well balanced and smart as we all thought. Cthulhu alone knows what Kelly’s future holds in the White House, but this looks like a lousy finale to a outstanding record of public service whether it ends now or next week or next year.

Tipperary Hill, Syracuse NY. Irish Central

Yes, I am having real problems figuring out General John Kelly and where he is coming from. He goes from being  the voice or groaning face of sense and dignity after things like the Charlottesville press opportunity to being an out and out loudmouthed and vulgar racist and jerk. Since Kelly is about my age and we grew up in the same neighborhoods only in different states, the Irish-Catholic Hilltop Ghetto, I recognize the type.

Covering up for a president reaching for glory by trying to pretend to care about a gold star wife and tripping over his tongue for no reason except he was too dumb to have a script was…unfortunate. Attacking the Congresswoman who called the President out on this was absurd, but doing it by lying about the woman and her career with the serious ignorant comment of comparing her to an empty barrel was mean spirited and stupid. To do it after the touching and heart felt description of how soldiers care for the bodies of their dead and what pains the services go through to get the remains back to the states is confusing. Who is this man, really?

Kelly is obviously a valiant warrior and obviously has issues not with authority — Marine Generals really don’t develop that trait, not that Flag Officers in Other Services do. I think he has an exaggerated respect for authority, not just his own but anybody his equal or above them. Questioning those authority figures calls out the bully in Kelly, clouds his judgement and gets him in trouble with the people he really works for…the American people. We have a general hesitation to accept authority or we are slavishly devoted to it.

Catholic School Weekly Gym Class, circa 1960 — Pinterest

In our case — Kelly and me and more than a few friends I can think of — I think it has to do with Catholic schools in the 60s and the sort of schizophrenic relationship those teaching us had with authority and the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement. The nuns and priests and lay people who taught me were generally pretty much commie-pinko-fags. The priests were really on that bus, attacking the strongest authority figures most of us had in our lives at that time — the nuns. Sister Mary Twinkletoes…of course, the younger nuns bought into that same mindset demonstrating that they weren’t like that at all while still living with their restrictions. The older nuns were grumpier than the younger ones, but generally were even more restless and, if being honest with you, were more rebellious. In the 60s at Catholic schools, the nuns were like the NCOs in the Corps or the Army, and the Mother Superior was the Master Gunnery Sergeant or the Army First Sergeant. The laymen teaching in Catholic high schools like mine were largely guys dodging the draft using teaching deferments.

Kelly obviously has some issues with race. This is actually not at all a surprise to me; the Irish were opposed to freeing the slaves under the impression that the slaves were going to come to Boston and New York and Oswego and Buffalo and take all the jobs. They adopted and have maintained in some areas the attitudes toward Black and Hispanic populations that the No-Nothings had back in the mid-18th century. Again, how well that stuck in my generation had something to do with where you went to grammar school, and I suspect that General Kelly came from a very conservative school in a very conservative Boston neighborhood. I had a lot of classmates at college from Boston, and the guys from the neighborhood parish schools were pretty repressed and repressive. The guys from Boston College High School and the various more elite schools in Cardinal Cushing’s Catholic Educational Empire were more open and interested in other points of view.

It’s not that those of us who weren’t active haters were not racists; we were more progressive representatives of our culture and heritage. Like Chet Atkins in his “Does anyone remember blind Willie?” we were “sort of avant garde Ku Klux Klan” or perhaps instead of Know Nothings we were Know a Few Things. Those of us who paid attention to the experience were able to learn a lot more things, and probably struggle to make sense of them in all in the context of this world.

Kelly and Trump, Still from OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT (episode 1). Courtesy of SHOWTIME.

Kelly also has problems as do many men of our age and his professional background with women who achieve or are gaining positions of economic and political power.  I found my experience with nuns made me more accepting of female authority figures in the Army, but during my career, there were more of them than in Kelly’s time in the Corps. This shortcoming — trouble with women authority figures –was clear in his tone deaf response to the agonized response of SGT La David Johnson’s wife and family and the advocacy of Congresswoman Frederica Williamson. Instead of being grateful for the President calling, they reacted angrily and with questions in response. In Kelly’s world, Congressman Williamson doesn’t compute; and Myeshia Johnson’s tearful response and anger that the president would be so tactless and admit that he couldn’t remember La David Johnson’s name without looking at the report was just utterly beyond the Pale. When the emperor deigns to notice you, you don’t worry if he mispronounces your name.

I remember at my dad’s funeral, the priest who didn’t know him, called him Marlon; my Mom stiffened and then smiled and said under her breath, “Merlin, damn it. His mother’s revenge.”Consider that an insight into the psychodrama playing out in my family. I spoke to the priest about it, and he apologized, saying he thought Merlin must have been a misprint. Oh well, so it goes.

Now, in Kelly’s world the family would be respectful, say thank you and God bless you and go back to saying the rosary. Certainly the woman would be sobbing and praying; the men would be standing outside the funeral home, smoking and perhaps sneaking a slug of the Irish if it was a well-to-do family or perhaps some Four Roses or I.W. Harper. In the real world of telling wives, mothers, husbands and fathers that their family has died in the service of their country, people don’t act that way anymore.

The perceived power imbalance that people like Trump and his minions depend on to get away with their lousy approach to us inferior human beings doesn’t really work anymore. If it did, Hillary Clinton would be president; the changes in society that made it possible for Donald Trump to claim the presidency make it incumbent on the dispossessed to not be terribly impressed with authority and power.

The nonsense this week that Kelly has been involved in amazes me. First of all, he goes to the Hill and lobbies the House and Senate to not shut down the government. Of course, at the same time, his boss is babbling about how all illegals are killers and that a shutdown would be good for the country. I have to think that Kelly didn’t expect that; and, while this is another of those Trump moments, stabbing his own messenger in the back because that’s his nature, Kelly appears to have shrugged it off and continued whatever he was doing.

But then he had to talk about DACA. This is a self-inflicted festering wound that we have because of the House’s Republican Caucus’ Hastert Rule, which is that the Speaker should not bring a bill to a vote unless the majority of his majority will vote for it. Not whether it’s best for the country, but for sake of party unity. When the Gang of Eight got a bi-partisan bill through the Senate years ago, John Boehner wanted to bring it to the floor where the bill had an excellent chance of passing but his leadership convinced him it would be the end of his Speakership, so…he didn’t bring it to the Senate for a vote. Things like DACA and paths to citizenship were all covered to some extent, and life would have been more sane.I suspect that was a disappointment for Boehner, who seems to be a decent man and got religion when he met the Pope and resigned rather than put up with the madness.

Obama did a fix of the most egregious errors at the same time driving deportations through the roof. Well, the Democrats weren’t going to praise him for that and Fox News or Breitbart wouldn’t think of saying that to their followers. Trump inherited a downward trending undocumented problem, and of course has continued to make it his priority…and so Mexico will start building the wall next Tuesday. Heh heh heh.

While most Americans with hearts are supportive of doing something for the young people who were brought here by their parents when they were too young to have a voice in the issue, Trump and his White Nationalist buddies like Bannon (who may be flipping to Mueller), Steven Miller, and Kelly have different ideas. I find that amazing, by the way. I had a lot of soldiers who were immigrants, and I was amazed to find out that after three tours on active duty, a couple of them were due to be deported for overstaying their visas. The Army did the right thing with some prodding, and they were sworn in as citizens but that bothers me to this day, 20 plus years after retiring myself from wearing the uniform. Historically, if you enlist and serve honorably, especially in wartime, you get to be a citizen. Why that isn’t law amazes me.

Except that our immigration law is a racist and nativist hodgepodge that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Trump wants to make it worse. Historically, and this includes his family where his grandfather followed his sister to the US as part of his plan to avoid the Prussian draft, famiily members who come to the USA or any other place often do so to prepare the way for other family members. Trump and his lily white advocates of being lily white don’t get that. Kelly obviously doesn’t.

Kelly providing guidance to Trump, STILL, Our Cartoon President, 2/11/2018, Courtesy of Showtime

So, he’s on a fool’s errand and gets asked a question about the immigration issue and complains about how most of the eligible DACA types didn’t apply when it possible to because they were either scared (Trust the Gringo government? Sure, why not…opps, why am I on a bus across the International Bridge in El Paso on my way to Central Mexico…oh yeah, I trusted the Gringo government.

Now, let’s agree that saying that these folks were too lazy to get off their asses and sign up was a lousy way to deliver an excuse. I listened to the shock and dismay of various people on TV over that remark and thought that they probably should get out more and mingle with real people. But, Kelly is an educated and disciplined senior individual representing the President of the United States. That was an incredibly dumb thing to say, and Kelly is not a dumb man.

He refined a bit later, saying “get off the couch” as opposed to the “get off their asses” way of saying it, but the damage was long done. So, of course, when he gets back to the White House, he makes it worse still only with a new topic — fawning all over a staffer who has just been identified as not having any clearance besides an interim after a year on the job operating as the Cabinet Secretary, a position requiring a TS Clearance with every access afforded the President, none of which he had because he has no clearance...which Kelly knew.

To be fair, he didn’t plan on the story exploding on the front page of the Daily Mail, although why it didn’t explode on the WAPO front page or the NY Times front page is worth considering over a cup of coffee.

(To be continued)

 

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