It doesn't surprise me that White House chief of staff John Kelly got his facts wrong yesterday:
... the retired general ... criticized Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson for claiming “she got the money” for [a] new [FBI] building during the 2015 ceremony while he and others in the audience were focused on the heroism of agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, killed during a 1986 shootout with bank robbers south of Miami....
“A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in 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,” Kelly told reporters....
The General Services Administration had already bid out a $144 million construction contract for the project in September 2010, just a few months before Wilson won her congressional seat. The bidding for federal projects takes place after Congress has secured the funding.
“That is crazy that I got [the money] and Mr. Obama just gave it to me,” Wilson said. “That building was funded long before I got to Congress. I didn’t say that. I have staff, people who write the speeches. You can’t say that.”
What she did was get legislation through a GOP Congress naming the building after the slain FBI agents, for which she won praise from Republicans and then-FBI director James Comey. That's according to the Miami Herald, which tells us that Kelly also got the cost of the building wrong -- it was $194 million, not $20 million. And in a speech about how we honor slain heroes, Kelly incorrectly identified one the FBI agents after whom the building was named:
I’ll end with this: In October — April, rather, of 2015, I was still on active duty, and I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 — a guy by the name of Grogan and Duke. Grogan almost retired, 53 years old; Duke, I think less than a year on the job. (Editor’s note: The F.B.I. agent for which the building is named was named Jerry L. Dove, not Duke.)
Kelly also slandered Wilson by portraying her as a dishonorable person who listened in on what should have been a private phone call. Not only did La David Johnson's family members invite Wilson to listen by putting the call on speaker, they probably did so because she and the family have known one another for years:
Perhaps Kelly, who also listened to the call, would be less stunned if he realized that Wilson's primary identity to the Johnson family isn't as a member of Congress. The Johnsons have known Wilson for decades — most of those years before the former educator moved to Washington to join Congress....
The deceased soldier was an alumnus of the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring program Wilson started for youths pursuing military careers among other fields. So were his brothers. One received a full scholarship to Bethune Cookman College and the other is training to become a firefighter.
Wilson's connection to the family goes back at least one generation. She told CNN that she was the principal of a school that Johnson's father attended.
These relationships were part of why Wilson was with the family — not just because she was “a member of Congress.”
There's more about Wilson's mentoring and service to her community here -- and yes, since your right-wing uncle will ask, she has spoken out against "hoodlums" responsible for gun violence in the community.
But John Kelly is a dishonorable man posing as America's most honorable man. He has a lot of people fooled, and not just on the right. Here's Axios's Mike Allen:
Sexual abuse in Hollywood. Social media abuse in Silicon Valley. Political abuse in the White House. Dive into Twitter for a few minutes, and these can feel like the worst of times. So everyone, and the GOP establishment in particular, seems hungry for moral clarity.
White House aides, beaten down by criticism from friends and beleaguered by the words and actions of the boss, got a rare moral boost from Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly as he offered a highly emotional and highly personal explanation/defense of Trump's outreach to families who lost young men in Niger....
"Kelly has managed to make himself the moral core of the Trump administration," a top White House official told us. "He just has so much credibility right now ... And he's in the best possible position, because he doesn't have to go out there and face the press every day. If he picks his spots he is now an extraordinarily credible and effective spokesperson on issues that need some moral clarity to them."
But as Josh Marshall notes, that "moral clarity" is just Trumpism with a little less buffoonery. Yesterday Kelly said:
It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.
The ideological and rhetorical spine of his remarks was a paean to MAGA. The old days were good. We had real religion. Things were right with women. There was no abortion. Honor was sacred and respected. Now it’s all crap because of people like Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D), a showboater from Florida who transgressed our last sacred space....
Attacks on President Trump are attacks on the sanctity of heroism and patriotic sacrifice itself. Again, attacking President Trump is attacking the troops. It’s the same maneuver driving Trump’s war on the NFL. Kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police misconduct really isn’t about police brutality or racism it all. It’s spitting on the sacrifice of American soldiers.
The last person in Washington to use military service as a cudgel this way was another dishonorable man, Oliver North -- who, naturally, was on Fox last night attacking Wilson.
Do I honor Kelly's military service? Yes -- but he dishonors it, by using it to divide America.
UPDATE: Florida's Sun-Sentinel has now posted a video of Wilson's speech. I can't embed it, but you can watch it here. No, she did not boast that she obtained the money for the building. She did begin by declaring her satisfaction with how quickly she'd managed to obtain congressional approval to name the building after the two slain FBI officers -- but she shared the credit with others in Congress including Republicans John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and Carlos Curbelo. Note that her point was that the FBI agents deserved the honor. She went on to praise law enforcement, asking all law enforcement officers to stand, and then she devoted the bulk of the speech to recounting the incident in which the men died, praising them for their sacrifice. And, conservatives, please note that she ended with words for which I would have thought you'd want her to praise her:
God bless you, God bless the FBI, and God bless America.
I'll say it again: John Kelly is a dishonorable man.
Crossposted at No Mr. Nice Blog