Nothing, really, changed yesterday. Nothing changed about how awful the President is, how cruel and thoughtless he is with words, or the near sycophantic way his close aides and supporters defend the all but indefensible. Nothing about yesterday was different than the day before, different from today, or tomorrow.
Still, I have to admit I was among those who thought, somehow, that Gen. John Kelly was better than this, better than most, better than those willing to sacrifice their own reputations in service to propping up the already dismal, failed Presidency of Donald Trump. Maybe it was the way he seemed to qualify his comments in the past, or the way he "took charge" as Chief of Staff both by installing order and by clearing out some of the worst of the worst whispering in Trump's ear. Without illusions that Kelly was anything other than a creature of the far right, I still figured, somehow, we were better off with him there than not.
Nothing changed... and yet where we are, now, is different.
So long as Kelly maintained the fig leaf, the gossamer veil, of somehow standing outside of the ugly divisions in our politics, he seemed to serve as an example that we could, somehow, get through this. It wouldn't be perfect, people would disagree strongly, but we could survive this with some shred of our dignity intact.
As of today, it's the veil that has been ripped away. (Or, yes, was never there at all.)
Like many on the right - Kelly was seduced, I think, into asserting himself as arbiter. He stood in front of the White House Press - first mistake - just days after his first such curious appearance, claiming that the treatment of military deaths and outreach to grieving families should be above politics. While carefully and deliberately politicizing them. By picking sides. It's a hallmark of conservatism these days, this perfectly irony-free approach to the discourse, the mouthpiece who says no one is discussing this issue on a program where he's literally discussing it. It's the woman from Fox News saying Hollywood doesn't take sexual harassment seriously, ignoring the state of her own network.The think tanker who says we don't know what happened in Benghazi after dozens of investigations and reports.
We don't know, actually, what happened in Niger. We don't know why it's taken days for the White House to acknowledge this disaster, to even reach out in a pro-forma way to the grieving, still without an explanation or reason for their deaths. Is it really for the White House Chief of Staff to wade into this complicated, fraught set of events to climb on his high horse and assail everyone else as unworthy to even discuss or question what's going on? Probably not... but is anything sacred, really, these days?
Kelly's life as a true believer isn't hard to see: he unleashed the forces of ICE during his short tenure at DHS, took the reigns of that first laughable travel ban, and the second, also quite inept one. He seems stiff, hidebound, and, since yesterday, throughly stuck in that fantasy that the good old days were a vast improvement on where we are now. It's not a great look for a white Catholic Irish guy from Boston. Or anyone, really.
The problem here isn't that it's depressing, or surprising, to see Kelly dive into the pit of muck that constitutes the political discourse now - jump right in, hope the water's warm enough for ya. And it's not some "new low" for the Trump folks - I'm not interested in retreating into yesterday myself. Maybe it's just that, like the rush of fall into winter, every day gets a little bit darker. Kelly's decision to sacrifice even the barest suggestion of being above the hatefulness - to politicize his own son in the process, to attack a black female public official without a trace of awareness of the optics, to confirm the literal worst of people's suspicions about Trump and his staff - becomes just another example of what we're losing and how bad it's already become.
This is what we're dealing with. It's helpful, I suppose, to realize just exactly who a person is, without pretending, trying not to see. No fool like a hopeful, naive, old fool. I suspect Kelly isn't even entirely aware of just what he gave away yesterday, how revealing it was to see his portrait of Dorian Grey for what it is. Seeing who Kelly's hero really is, giving away his credibility and his reputation for a pot of mythical gold. Is nothing sacred? No, sir, it is not.