For the past seven years, Gen. John F. Kelly has gone out of his way to keep the death of his son free from politics.
He did not talk about him when — just four days after his death in southern Afghanistan — Kelly found himself commemorating two other Marines killed in combat, in a moving speech in St. Louis. In fact, according to a Washington Post report, he specifically asked the officer introducing him not to mention his boy, 1st Lt. Robert M. Kelly, who was killed instantly when he stepped on a land mine while on patrol in 2010.
Just last month, Kelly slipped away from the White House to attend a Marine Corps scholarship golf tournament in his son’s memory, with little fanfare or attention.
But on Tuesday, Kelly’s boss, President Trump, thrust his son into the public and political glare, invoking the younger Kelly as part of a continuing attack on former president Barack Obama.
In an interview with Fox News radio, Trump singled out Kelly, his chief of staff, as he attempted to bolster his false claim a day earlier that Obama never called families of fallen U.S. service members.
“I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died,” the president told the host, Brian Kilmeade. “As far as other representatives, I don’t know. You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”
The remark, which was almost immediately derided by Democrats and Obama allies as politicizing a tragedy, was unplanned, said two White House officials, who said they were caught off-guard by Trump’s comments. One said Kelly may have mentioned some details surrounding his son’s death to the president in private — and the president then repeated them in public, a relatively frequent occurrence with Trump.
The president’s casual assertion sent both sides scrambling to recount their own version of events — underscoring again that in Trump’s White House, almost nothing is off limits and just about anything can be used to score political points.
Leon Panetta, former defense secretary under Obama and former White House chief of staff…