God Bless the Kellys and Every Family of Those Who Serve

by Jim Geraghty

White House chief of staff John Kelly, addressing reporters yesterday, describing the process of notifying the families of those slain while in uniform:

A casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door; typically a mom and dad will answer, a wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places; if the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until – well, for a long, long time, even after the internment. So that’s what happens.

Who are these young men and women? They are the best 1 percent this country produces. Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best this country produces, and they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that’s all right . . . 

As I walk off the stage, understand there’s tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing their nation’s bidding all around the world. They don’t have to be in uniform. You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran — World War II, Korea, and there was the draft. These young people today, they don’t do it for any other reason than their selfless — sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.

We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

Do we as a country do enough to appreciate these families? Can we do enough to demonstrate our gratitude to these families?

President Trump Should Visit the DMZ in Korea.

President Donald Trump should visit the Demilitarized Zone during his visit to South Korea in early November. Those contending that a presidential visit would be “provocative” are urging the United States to conduct its foreign policy in a defensive crouch, terrified of causing offense to a regime that doesn’t hesitate to suddenly fire missiles over U.S. allies.

A presidential visit to the Demilitarized Zone is not only legal and protected under treaties, it is traditional: every president since Reagan has made the visit except George H.W. Bush, who visited when he served as vice president. Earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence visited.

The advocates of scrapping the traditional visit don’t seem to realize what they’re advocating. They want the United States to limit its own activities out of fear of causing offense or angering a regime that A) seems to find everything to be an outrageous provocation, including the continued existence of South Korea, Japan, and the United States, and B) demonstrates no concern about its own actions being perceived as “provocative,” including those usually interpreted as acts of war, such as firing artillery shells into another country’s territory or sinking their naval vessels.

No other regime would seriously object to an American president visiting any location within the territorial borders of an ally. A presidential visit is only provocative because the North Koreans decree it is provocative.

This amounts to terms where the Pyongyang regime can do anything it wants without serious consequence and we meekly decide to rule out certain actions to avoid giving offense.

Not only will we never have peace under this approach, but it actually increases the likelihood of eventual all-out war. If you keep rewarding aggressive and threatening behavior, you only get more of it.

The other objection to a Trump visit is the fear that the president would not be safe there:

However, officials in both the U.S. and South Korean governments have raised concerns that Trump could become a target in the heavily fortified area that separates the two Koreas, according to a source familiar with U.S.-South Korea relations.

If the North Korean regime really is tempted to try to kill President Trump while he’s visiting South Korea . . .  then the situation is even more dangerous than we thought. A regime that is willing to carry out a surprise attack on the commander-in-chief cannot be trusted to live with nuclear weapons.

It is worth remembering that Presidents Bush and Obama visited war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and also countries with intense terrorist threats like Pakistan, and the U.S. Secret Service rose to the challenge.

William F. Buckley once said, “When the Soviet Union challenged America and our set of loyalties, it did so at gunpoint. It became necessary at a certain point to show them our clenched fist and advise them that we were not going to deal lightly with our primal commitment to preserve those loyalties.”

The North Koreans want to negotiate at gunpoint. The point of these visits is to remind them that we have a gun, too.

The Current Liberal Appreciation of George W. Bush Is Nice and All, But . . . 

Jennifer Sabin echoes many folks on the left this week, expressing a newfound appreciation for former President George W. Bush, as well as John McCain:

However much and often I disagreed with [Bush], thought him misguided, unfit for the job, led by war mongers, etc., etc., I never thought he was insane, or anti-American, or in bed with an oversees enemy and/or white supremacists . . .   I look back at how determined I was that John McCain could not be president. When the worst thing that could happen was to elect a war hero with conservative views, and a moron for vice president.

Excuse me. Most of us are old enough to remember the Bush years. (Some of us are old enough to remember the first Bush presidency.) We remember “Bushitler,” “Chimpy McHalliburton,” “Bush doesn’t care about black people,” the awards for films depicting Bush’s assassination, Howard Dean speculating that the Saudis warned Bush about 9/11 and the president letting it happen, MoveOn.org running ads comparing Bush to Hitler, Keith Ellison comparing the 9/11 attack to the Reichstag fire . . . 

One of the reasons Trump became president is because a sufficient portion of the electorate tuned out or disregarded the criticism of him from the Left. One of the reasons people ignored that criticism is because at least three good men – Bush, McCain, and Mitt Romney — were demonized as the irredeemable epitome of all evil by liberal voices for almost the entirety of their public lives. One could throw Sarah Palin in there as well — whatever else you think of her, she’s not a monster, and she’s done so much for families with children with Down Syndrome – as well as the ads featuring Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother off a cliff. When every single prominent Republican figure is the WORST MONSTER IN HUMAN HISTORY, people stop believing the criticism.

A few voices on the left recognized this. Right before the election, comedian Bill Maher had what appeared to be a painful moment of clarity:

I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked your boy Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men who we disagreed with, and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different.

But I don’t want our friends on the left to merely regret the past, I want them to learn from it. (And perhaps we could or should learn something similar. The agenda of Bill Clinton in the 1990s looks pretty centrist these days.)

We don’t fix this by praising retired members of the other party, or wishing that everyone in the other party could be as reasonable as the one who deviates from party orthodoxy the most. We fix this by reasserting the unwritten rule in our political discourse that our opponents are not to be treated like inhuman monsters unless they actually do something monstrous. And mere disagreement on issues does not make one a monster! We think poorly of Harvey Weinstein’s donation of $100,000 to Planned Parenthood because an impassioned disagreement about when human life begins. But it’s his long history of sexual exploitation and cruelty that makes him a monster.

ADDENDA: Jeff Blehar, who hosts our excellent musical podcast Political Beats, reminds Chelsea Handler about the Koch brothers’ $1.5 billion in contributions to charity over the years.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty