Kelly’s remarks are offensive and wrong

November 5, 2017 GMT

White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly was initially touted by many in the media as a moderating influence on President Donald Trump. But instead, he is echoing his boss’ defense of Confederate monuments and tendency for being racially offensive.

Kelly was the guest for the premiere of Laura Ingraham’s new show on Fox News Channel on Monday when he offered an offensive and wrong view of the Civil War.

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” said Kelly of the Confederate General in response to a question about the decision of a church in Alexandria, Va. to remove plaques honoring George Washington and Lee.

“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Kelly is a retired Marine general, but his statements sounded like something made by a general of the seditious Confederacy.

Historians described Kelly’s remarks as “dangerous” and “depressing.”

“What’s so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century, said Stephanie McCurry, a history professor at Columbia University and author of “Confederate Reckoning: Politics and Power in the Civil War South,” in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.”

David Blight, a history professor at Yale University and, author of “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” also rejects Kelly’s argument.

“This is profound ignorance, that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative,” Blight said. “I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump, who let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over. But General Kelly has a long history in the American military.”

You don’t need to be a college history professor to know that the Civil War was about slavery and that there were a number of compromises on slavery that led up to the Civil War, from the drafting of the U.S. Constitution to the addition of new states to the Union.

On the critical issue of slavery, the South saw an America where slavery would remain for decades to come. The North did not. On this issue there could not be and should not have been any compromise.

Kelly’s Civil War remarks are the latest in a growing pattern of offensive comments coming from the White House Chief of Staff.

Kelly inaccurately described a 2015 speech by Frederica Wilson, D-Fla. He made the remarks while criticizing the congresswoman for publicizing a phone call by Trump to the family of a slain service member.

Kelly criticized Wilson for taking credit for the 2015 dedication of an FBI building in South Florida.

Kelly said that Wilson “stood up there… 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 is wrong. Wilson didn’t mention funding for the building in her speech, much less claim credit for it or tell the audience how she leveraged influence with Obama to secure the funding.

Kelly told Ingraham he had nothing to apologize for: “For something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”

Since becoming White House Chief of Staff Kelly has not been a moderating influence on Trump. He has been enabler and chief defender of the indefensible.