Well, he’s right, actually.
I have to imagine former White House Chief of Staff John
Kelly is breathing so much easier, these days.
No longer is it on his shoulders to defend the indefensible,
or perpetuate lies to the public, in order to protect the current occupant of
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
With all that, Kelly is speaking more freely, and did so
while appearing for an onstage interview at Duke University on Wednesday
So what were some of the topics the retired four-star
general touched on?
He called his time with the administration, as both the
Secretary of Homeland Security, and then chief of staff, his “civic duty.”
Interestingly, he added that he would have accepted the
position coming from a President Hillary Clinton, as well.
I’m sure that’s enough to cause some to get whiplash from
the double take.
One thing he’s no longer doing is denying he said working
for Donald Trump was his “least enjoyable” job. Rather, he frames it as his “most
In the past week, Kelly has been back in the news again, related
to the controversy surrounding the top secret security clearance given to Trump’s
son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as the favored child, Ivanka
Trump – both against Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn’s recommendations.
The intelligence community had likewise flagged Kushner as a
threat, but according to recent reports, Trump demanded Kushner and Ivanka
Trump have that clearance.
He eventually went over their heads to get them that
Kelly wasn’t at liberty to discuss that particular
controversy, but he did speak up about the current immigration situation, as
well as Trump’s wall.
Speaking directly against Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants:
“They’re overwhelmingly not criminals,” Kelly said Wednesday. “They’re people coming up here for economic purposes. I don’t blame them for that.”
He also reiterated his position that a border wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexico border would be a “waste of money,” despite overseeing the beginning of what would become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history over Trump’s demand that Congress fund the wall.
Though there are areas where a border wall would be effective, Kelly said, “We don’t need a wall from sea to shining sea.” The president himself has shifted on the specifics of his border wall, including its proposed length.
Trump will shift as public opinion or the Fox News pundits’
opinions shift. If Sean Hannity calls for a concrete wall, that’s what Trump
will shift to.
I’ve said it often, and I continue it to be true: The most
effective, doable plan for border security came from former Texas Governor (and
current Secretary of Energy) Rick Perry.
You place strategic fencing, get more boots on the ground,
closer to the border, rather than 50 miles away, use aviation assets with a
direct line to quick responders on the ground, and you can secure that border.
This is what Trump needs, but hasn’t done.
He needs a reasonable plan of action to work with. If he can
take this plan to Congress, without screaming out his campaign slogans, I
suspect more lawmakers will be willing to sit and listen, and it won’t require
a fictitious “emergency.”
Further in the discussion, Kelly also defended NATO, and the
United States’ involvement. That’s another issue where he parts with Trump.
So did he have any advice for his replacement, Mick
Before saying the chief of staff’s job is to tell the president “what he needs to hear,” Kelly said he advised Mulvaney to “run for it.”
I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot of those “run for it” stories from former Trump staffers, one day.