New Yorker Warns Kelly's Press Briefing Was 'Preview' of What 'Military Coup Looks Like'

John Kelly / Getty
John Kelly / Getty
October 20, 2017

A New Yorker article warned Friday that White House chief of staff John Kelly's press briefing on Thursday could have been a "preview" of what an eventual military coup in the U.S. might look like.

"Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup," began Masha Gessen, a Russian journalist and an outspoke critic of Vladimir Putin. "You don't have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday's White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump's phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson."

"The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments," she continued.

Gessen wrote that Kelly's four arguments were:

  • "Those who criticize the president don't know what they're talking about because they haven't served in the military"
  • "The president did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do"
  • "Communication between the president and a military widow is no one's business but theirs"
  • "Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country"

Gessen cited as an example Kelly's statement that soldiers who die serving their country "are the very best this country produces."

"It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one's country becomes the ultimate badge of honor," she wrote.

Honoring those killed in war reminded Gessen of her upbringing in the Soviet Union.

"I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder," she said. "All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom."

At no point did the author consider that Kelly might hold fallen soldiers in high regard because his own son died in combat.

"When Kelly replaced the ineffectual Reince Priebus as the chief of staff, a sigh of relief emerged: at least the general would impose some discipline on the administration," Gessen remarked. "Now we have a sense of what military discipline in the White House sounds like."