Thursday, January 18, 2018

Verify, Do Not Trust

Huffington Post reports

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told a meeting of Democratic lawmakers that President Donald Trump’s campaign pledges to curb immigration ― including his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border ― were uninformed, and that such a structure was unlikely to happen in full, according to multiple media reports.

Kelly made the comments to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday in a closed-door session that was first reported by The Washington Post. His comments were confirmed by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who was at the meeting.

“I can confirm that Chief of Staff Kelly said today that the President’s campaign was not fully informed about the wall he was promising to voters,” Gutiérrez said in a statement. “Kelly went on to say that many campaigns are not fully informed about every policy and that campaigning and governing are two different things and that governing is harder.”

We don't have a quote from the Chief of Staff himself, but only an interpretation of his remarks by a member of Congress and immigration advocate.  But it sounds as if Kelly was, if he referred to "campaigns," giving the boss cover while attempting to make himself out as the voice of reason. The latter seems likely because

Gutiérrez also went on to confirm reporting by The New York Times that Kelly took credit as the “one who tempered” Trump’s more extreme opinions on the wall and the viability of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, also known as DACA.

“Kelly took credit for educating the President on the wall and that a concrete barrier from sea to shining sea was no longer the conception of border security barriers supported today by the White House,” Gutiérrez said.

It surely is comforting to know, through Representative Gutierrez, that the Chief of Staff does not except a concrete wall to arise out of the Rio Grande and the Colorado River.  The next day the President went even further, backing down from his campaign boasts while pretending otherwise:

The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.....

The old joke runs "how do you know when X is lying?" Donald Trump has shattered the punch line "when his lips are moving," for he does it quite effortlessly when he tweets as well as when he speaks (no rhyme intended).

Nonetheless, that puts the President not at odds but on the same terrain as his chief of staff. Let us not forget

Video of a 2015 speech delivered by Representative Frederica S. Wilson revealed Friday that John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, misrepresented her remarks when he accused her of bragging about securing $20 million for a South Florida F.B.I. building and twisting President Barack Obama’s arm.

Mr. Kelly, escalating a feud between Mr. Trump and Ms. Wilson, had cast the congresswoman on Thursday as a publicity-seeking opportunist. However, the video, released by The Sun Sentinel, a newspaper in South Florida, showed that during her nine-minute speech, Ms. Wilson never took credit for getting the money for the building, only for helping pass legislation naming the building after two fallen federal agents.

She never mentioned pleading with Mr. Obama, and she acknowledged the help of several Republicans, including John A. Boehner, then the House speaker; Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo; and Senator Marco Rubio.

John Kelly is different than Donald Trump or Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He is more serious and reputable, and probably tells the truth more often than he utters falsehoods. But there is a reason all these individuals serve this particular President.

For the latter three, truth is an unpleasant option. For General Kelly, it can be thrown overboard when necessary, which puts him on an ethical plane above Sanders, Conway, or Trump. However, he is a reminder that service in uniform to the country does not inoculate one from dishonesty. As the immigration debate continues, nothing he (or anyone in the Administration) says can be assumed to  be completely accurate.

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