The New York Times is shocked that retired four-star Marine general John Kelly has "strong feelings on patriotism," in a new profile attempting to sound the alarm against the president's chief of staff.
Once seen by the Times as a "beacon of discipline," the paper of record has grown weary that Kelly might share President Trump's views on enforcing immigration law.
The Times' Peter Baker's latest profile on Kelly makes the general appear as a wolf in sheep's clothing. "Pitched as Calming Force, John Kelly Instead Mirrors Boss's Priorities," the headline declared.
"For all of the talk of Mr. Kelly as a moderating force and the so-called grown-up in the room, it turns out that he harbors strong feelings on patriotism, national security, and immigration that mirror the hard-line views of his outspoken boss," Baker warns.
Baker then criticized Gen. Kelly's press conference last week, where Kelly said he was stunned that a congresswoman would listen in on a presidential condolence call to a military widow, as wading into the culture wars. Kelly's comments that nothing is sacred in America earned scare quotes from the Times.
"And in lamenting that the country no longer holds women, religion, military families or the dignity of life ‘sacred' the way it once did, Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general whose son was killed in Afghanistan, waded deep into the culture wars in a way few chiefs of staff typically do," Baker writes. "Conservatives cheered his defense of what they consider traditional American values, while liberals condemned what they deemed an outdated view of a modern, pluralistic society."
The most troubling revelation for the Times is that Kelly may share Trump's views on enforcing immigration law. Baker notes, "Democrats have expressed alarm at Mr. Kelly's views on immigration," and provides an anecdote of Kelly reminding members of Congress that they are responsible for the immigration laws on the books.
"‘If lawmakers do not like the laws they've passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,' Mr. Kelly said defiantly," the Times writes. "Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines," Kelly said.
The Times complains they were misled on Kelly, who they believed to be a "steady, nonideological figure trying to restore order in the White House."
"Mr. Kelly's focus on improving information flow and decision making in the West Wing gave the impression of a good soldier mainly concerned with process," Baker writes. "But that obscured a player who expresses his own sharp views in selected areas, most notably immigration, where he shares Mr. Trump's commitment to toughening the border and deporting many in the country illegally."
Prior to learning his views on immigration, and the press conference last week where he criticized Rep. Frederica Wilson for politicizing the president's phone call to a war widow, the Times had glowing reviews of Kelly.
To the Times, the "square-jawed Mr. Kelly" was the "beacon of discipline" to get the "unruly and chaotic West Wing" under control in July.
Kelly could "signal a new stability at the White House," though the Times did warn about his immigration views back then, using the same anecdote of admonishing lawmakers on enforcing immigration law when he was Homeland Security secretary.
By September, the Times was eager to play up a feud between Trump and Kelly, siding with Kelly in a report headlined, "Forceful Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual."
Trump "needs Mr. Kelly more than Mr. Kelly needs him," the paper wrote, claiming Kelly "signed on reluctantly, more out of a sense of duty than a need for affirmation, personal enrichment or fame."
Now, to the Times, "it turns out" Kelly is patriotic.