WH Chief Of Staff John Kelly: Inability To Compromise Led To U.S. Civil War

(CBS News) — President Trump’s chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, reignited the debate over pulling down monuments immortalizing the Confederacy on Monday, telling Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” that there’s a “lack of appreciation of history and what history is.” He also suggested that it was the inability to “compromise” that led to the Civil War.

Kelly, asked about the removal of historical markers across the country, said that “history’s history.”

“There are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good.  I think, I think we make a mistake, though, and as a society and certainly as, as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say what those, you know, what Christopher Columbus did was wrong.”

He said the idea of applying current concepts of right and wrong so many years later is “very, very dangerous.” As for Confederate general Robert E. Lee, Kelly called him an “honorable man.”

“He was a man that gave up, 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,” Kelly said.

Both Kelly and Ingraham later joked about the threat of pulling down the Washington Monument and renaming the statue in the nation’s capitol. Kelly sarcastically proposed renaming it after a “cult hero” like pop artist Andy Warhol.

Meanwhile, Kelly said he’s not offering an apology to Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson any time soon in the fallout over President Trump’s conversations with Gold Star families.

“I’ll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not.  I stand by my comments,” said Kelly when asked if he would ever extend a mea culpa to Wilson.

He added, “But I’d just as soon let that go.”

Kelly had told reporters at the White House he was “stunned” to find out that a member of Congress had listened to the phone call Mr. Trump made to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, Myeshia Johnson, as she made her way to the airport to greet the remains of her late husband, timing that was reported by CBS Miami.

Wilson told CBS Miami that during the call, the president told Johnson, “‘Well, I guess he knew what he was getting into'” — a comment that Johnson later said left her feeling “upset and hurt.” The president blasted Wilson’s account as “totally fabricated.”

Kelly said it was “absolutely depressing” to see the calling of a war widow be turned into a political event, reiterating that Wilson’s comments about the president were “stunning.”

“I just don’t know how anyone could possibly criticize another human being for doing the best he or she could do to express sorrow from the bottom of their hearts,” said Kelly.

He added, “But to hear him [Trump] talk to four next of kin that day and essentially the message was the same and he did the best he could to make it personal and the best he could to make them understand how sorry he was as the president and as a father himself.  And then to see what came of that, just was stunning to me.”

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