I’ve vowed not to write about Trump, just General Kelly, because Kelly and I share a bit of the same background — same age, same hometown. Here’s a bit of what he said the other day:
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.
Here are some things I remember from growing up, like Kelly, Catholic in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton in the 50’s and 60’s:
- Birth control was illegal and also sinful, except for the rhythm method. One time I was looking for something in my parents’ room and I came across a little pamphlet about the rhythm method. This totally creeped me out, because it strongly implied that my parents had sex, which seemed incomprehensible to me. I became aware much later that merciful ob-gyns would sometimes administer unneeded hysterectomies to women whose bodies (and lives) were wearing out from constant pregnancies.
- Divorce was also sinful, and hard to come by even if you decided to go ahead with it. So abused women just had to take their abuse.
- The best public high school in the city was Boston Latin School. Except girls couldn’t attend it. (They could go to Girls’ Latin, where my mother went; it was pretty good, but not the same.)
- The best colleges near our neighborhood were Harvard and Boston College. Neither admitted women on an equal footing with men until the 1970’s.
- There was no such thing as intercollegiate sports for women — at least, nothing like today.
- Women, if they worked at all outside the home, were mainly teachers, nurses, secretaries, or sales clerks. The Globe helpfully divided their Help Wanted section into male and female sections, in case you weren’t clear on the concept.
- Boston teachers weren’t allowed to teach after they became pregnant. In the 60’s, a sister-in-law of mine hid her pregnancy for as long as she could because she and her husband really needed the money.
These sorts of things are, I assume, not what Kelly had in mind when he talked about looking upon women with great honor. Maybe he was thinking about holding the door open for them, doffing your hat, giving up your seat on the subway. Maybe he was thinking of religion: May processions in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, statues of her in the front yard or on the living room mantel, kneeling down in front of her to say the rosary along with Archbishop Cushing on the radio. This is the rosy view of the past as seen through a conservative lens. This is MAGA in the mind of a true believer.
Only a true believer would tell a blatant lie about a black woman to make a point about how sacred women are. Only a true believer would ignore the many ways in which his boss has not held women in great honor. In a tweet, the New Yorker claimed that Kelly was Trump’s latest victim. But he’s not a victim; he’s an enabler. He’s not trying to save the country from Trump; he’s trying to help Trump do a better job of destroying it.
. . . the head of the Department of Homeland Security born in the same town as me, in the same year as me.
Here he is at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night:
That night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had dinner with Sessions, Bannon, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, among others. They tried to put Trump in a better mood by going over their implementation plans for the travel ban, according to a White House official.
This is not a Cabinet secretary; this is a courtier. Does he think he is helping America by doing this? Does he think his grandchildren will honor him for doing this? I can imagine a person who takes a job hoping to improve an awful situation by providing common sense and sanity. This does not appear to be Kelly’s motivation.
Ah, General! History will not treat you kindly.
The new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, is by any standard an estimable figure — a distinguished retired Marine general whose Marine son died in Afghanistan. He was widely regarded as one of Trump’s best cabinet picks. His life story is mildly interesting to me because he’s the same age as me and from the same town (Brighton, Mass.). It’s entirely possible we went to grammar school together, although I have no memory of him.
Now his agency is at the center of a firestorm of criticism over the enforcement of Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees. Apparently he wasn’t consulted about the executive order before it was signed. OK, fine. But he’s going to enforce it, because good military men follow orders.
And now what? I wonder if he’s pondering the fact that he is in the process of permanently tainting his life story. That forever more, instead of puff pieces like the one I linked to above, stories about him are going to start by talking about how he was running DHS that time when families were ripped apart, when people who had helped the American military were placed in handcuffs at airports, when scientists coming to this country to help cure diseases were sent back to where they came from…. and he did nothing but follow orders.
I wonder if he’s worried that his grandchildren might possibly end up being ashamed of him.
If he’s not worried about this, I kinda think he should be.
Here I pondered what to do with myself after giving up on the American experiment. Some updates:
- My garage is much cleaner, thanks for asking. Although not exactly, you know, clean.
- I haven’t read A Theory of Justice. But it’s on my Amazon wish list (hint hint)! Also, it was mentioned in a good book I read about philosophers of the Enlightenment called The Dream of Enlightenment.
- Following my brother’s suggestion, I have listened to Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Brahms piano quartet. It was great. Thanks, Stan! Thanks, Amazon Prime! Thanks, Brahms and Schoenberg!
- I’ve speeded up my fiction writing. I’m up to about 40,000 words of my first draft. Theoretically, that should be about halfway through. Unfortunately, I seem to have about a dozen point of view characters, and things keep getting more complicated. Occupational hazard.
- I haven’t read more Shakespeare. On the other hand, I have listened to Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. I’m generally conflicted about McEwan, but boy is this novel great. It’s a modern retelling of the Hamlet story; in this case, Hamlet is the narrator, and he happens a fetus overhearing a plot between his mother (Trudy) and uncle (Claude) to murder his father. It’s ridiculously well written, even if McEwan’s characterization of a third-trimester fetus isn’t always, um, plausible.
Is my mood any better? Actually, no, despite the state of my garage. Here is Charles Blow in the Times, summing things up pretty well:
We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement. We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental American ideals. We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.
I’ve been too busy finishing my novel to blog about my many insightful political observations. But anyway, I was reading many discussions in the media over the past few days about how the Republican elites failed to stop Trump. The canonical text is this article in the New York Times.
In public, there were calls for the party to unite behind a single candidate. In dozens of interviews, elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Mr. Trump — and the agonizing reasons that many of them have become convinced it will fail. Behind the scenes, a desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn.
This became obvious to me as I worked out in my local gym in the mornings leading up to the New Hampshire primary. The Boston TV stations reach into New Hampshire, so we see all the campaign ads aimed at NH voters. I would be on the treadmill looking at the news on three separate TVs, and each of them would be running the same set of ads. And none of them were negative ads aimed at Trump. I can see why the individual candidates wouldn’t run them–they were too busy trying to bolster their own campaigns. But why not an outside SuperPAC? Why wouldn’t Mitt Romney dump a few million dollars into this?
The Massachusetts primary is coming up this Tuesday, and the latest poll shows Trump getting 43% of the vote. And where is our popular, moderate Republican governor Charlie Baker? Sitting silently on the sidelines, now that the candidate he endorsed, Chris Christie, has dropped out. Why won’t he use any of his political capital to try to stop Trump?
If I were a rational Republican (and I don’t know how many of them there are), I would be gnashing my teeth. But of course, if they were really rational, they would long ago have abandoned the modern Republican party. Here is Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo:
Trump is very little different from the average candidate Republicans elected in 2010 and 2014, in terms of radical views and extreme rhetoric. All he’s done is take the actual GOP issue package, turn it up to eleven and put it on a high speed collision course with RNC headquarters smack in the middle of presidential election year.