John Kelly: Right-wing authoritarian general committed to Trumpism
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly appears before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to advance President Donald Trump's border security agenda. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Reince Priebus’ short tenure as White House chief of staff was a disaster. He was the representative of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the party “establishment” inside the Trump administration.

The RNC people never loved Trump, despite the fact that they were busy for decades laying the groundwork for Trumpism. They did so with their unscrupulous attacks on President Barack Obama and their willingness to back racist measures, including voter suppression, attacks on immigrants, and assaults on union rights, to name just a few things.

What the GOP elements behind Priebus wanted was Trump’s signature on whatever reactionary legislation they could manage to get through Congress.

Trump, however, has trouble tolerating anyone, including even people who agree with his agenda, if they don’t bow down at his feet.

By ditching Priebus and replacing him with the authoritarian right-wing General John Kelly, Trump is getting someone who he thinks loves him but who in fact loves Trumpism much more than Trump himself.

“Order” in a chaotic White House is not what Kelly is about. Like the president he serves, Kelly is an authoritarian right-winger who has no problem using chaos to retain control over the nation’s agenda. To achieve his goals, Kelly will bow down before the master Trump as much as he has to. His actions so far prove it.

Before he became secretary of Homeland Security, Kelly told a GOP-dominated congressional committee that oversees that department that he would serve only one man – Donald Trump. That is the only promise he has kept. What he told them about his intention to “speak truth to power” has turned out to be a pile of bunk. Despite all the accolades he gets, even in the liberal media, for being one who “speaks truth to power,” Kelly has proven he is the exact opposite.

He has long supported Trump’s anti immigrant stance. Back in 2015, when he was head of the U.S. Southern Command, Kelly told the Senate Armed Services Committee that terrorist organizations would seek smuggling routes from Central America and Mexico to bring weapons of mass destruction into the United Sates. That alone fully qualified him in the eyes of the president to promote him to the rank of one of “my generals,” as Trump calls them.

That should have been a clear indication when the Senate was vetting him for the Trump cabinet where he would stand on immigration policy, deportation, the border wall, the ban on Muslims, and domestic policing. For the Republican majority on the Senate committees, his positions were quite clear – which is exactly why they endorsed him.

The liberal media should have known better, however, than to have dubbed Kelly as one of the “better” nominees to the Cabinet. Those who today are saying they feel good about him being in the White House have only to look at his recent record to see why their “good” feelings are inappropriate.

Since he took over Homeland Security, Kelly fully backed each and every one of Trump’s most reactionary policies. He has consistently dashed the hopes any Democrats have had that he would be a voice for reason in the Trump Cabinet.

Kelly showed his support for Trumpism during the days of the first Trump announcement of the Muslim travel ban. There were reports all over the media that his department of Homeland Security was “unaware’ of the coming ban and its implications. For an “unaware” department, it sure moved fairly swiftly and effectively, despite mass demonstrations against it, to implement much of the policy in just a few hours. And when he appeared before Congress, he had not one bad word to say about the travel ban or Trump, instead blaming himself for the confusion at the nation’s airports.

Instead of calling him to task, the media portrayed him as a self-sacrificing hero who was willing to take the blame for his boss, a really “good guy.” He received this praise when he should have been condemned for defending a fascistic travel ban.

Hiss defense of Trump’s unfounded claim that President Obama had wiretapped his office in Trump Tower, an assertion that came direct from the pages of right-wing conspiracy tabloids, was another indication of Kelly’s extremist bent. Speaking on CNN, Kelly said of Trump’s charge about Obama’s alleged wiretap: “If the President (Trump) of the United States said that, he’s got his reasons to say it. He must have some convincing evidence that it took place.” Kelly also said he couldn’t “even guess as to what the motivation of the previous administration was to do something like that.”

It was nothing less than agreement that the wiretapping had occurred, despite findings to the contrary by the intelligence agencies.

At best, Kelly is an apologist for President Trump.

Much more likely, however, as shown by his actions, he is an ardent “Trumpist,” who has espoused the fascist-like ideas of Trump before Trump was president and someone who will continue to play a  role in the Trump movement after Trump is gone.

Alternative facts, destruction of the free press, replacement of it by right-wing propaganda machines, use of chaos as a political tactic to help shove through broader agendas, racism, xenophobia, misogyny and now placement of authoritarian generals like Kelly directly into the White House – it’s all part of the old fascist play book. Nothing new there.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.