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MITCHELL: Chief of Staff John Kelly’s remarks insult African-Americans

John Kelly

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. | Evan Vucci/Associated Press file photo

Chief of Staff John Kelly fits right in with the weirdness going on in the White House.

During an interview with the provocative Laura Ingraham Monday night, Kelly praised Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, as an “honorable man.”

First of all, there was no honor in slavery – period. Worst yet, Lee wasn’t only a slaveholder, he was history’s biggest defender of the institution.

When Kelly was asked about a Virginia church’s decision to remove plaques honoring Lee and George Washington, he could have punted.


Instead, Kelly went whole hog.

“I think we make a mistake though, as a society and certainly as individuals, when we take what is accepted today as right and wrong and go back and 100, 200 or 300 years…It shows you a lack of appreciation for history and what history is,” Kelly said.

I can’t imagine him saying that about the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler.

But Kelly didn’t see a problem heaping praise on Lee.

“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

I expect such absurd statements to come from Tiki-toting white nationalists who have come out of the shadows since Trump took over the White House.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly needs a history lesson. The Civil War was not a disagreement between ‘men and women of good faith on both sides.’ It was a struggle for the soul of this country. Thankfully, the right side won the war and slavery is no longer the law of the land,” said the Congressional Black Caucus in a written statement.

In 1850, Lee argued that slavery is a “greater evil to the white man than to the black race.”

“The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race [and] I hope will prepare and lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known [and] ordered by a wise Merciful Providence,” he wrote in a letter dated Dec. 27, 1856.

It was an immoral argument then, and an even more immoral one today.