September 23, 2021, 5:00

The Note: Bush, Obama and Gen. Kelly try to elevate the dialogue in the era of Trump

The Note: Bush, Obama and Gen. Kelly try to elevate the dialogue in the era of Trump

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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After a week of flags and phone calls, and rather typical flare-ups in the era of Trump, some voices from the past and present sought to bring a hush to the noise.

Two former presidents, from much different background and persuasions, urged a path forward that drew on the best American traditions. The Bush and Obama visions seemed somehow aligned with lessons on how to not just be a president, but how to be an American.

Enter Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff and a Gold Star father, with a riveting brief speech on service and sacrifice.

“I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die in the battlefield, I thought that might be sacred,” Kelly said.

It’s selective hearing, if not downright disingenuous, for Kelly to be outraged by others’ behavior and not that of his own boss.

Much of the uproar this week wasn’t about what President Donald Trump originally said to the Gold Star family of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger, but that he compared his reaction to his predecessors’, and that he couldn’t let the family or its congresswoman have the last word.

But the lesson about what matters should remain. Whether it’s Kelly, or Barack Obama urging an end to the “politics of division,” or George W. Bush advising to “remember our values,” the lessons stand for those across the political spectrum – starting with the current president himself.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

It’s hard enough to hit a target in Washington these days without the president constantly moving it.

If 24 Senate co-sponsors, including 12 Republicans, are not enough to get President Donald Trump onboard with a plan to stabilize individual health insurance markets, then it’s not clear what will.

The president’s backtracking on this issue sets a tough playing field for lawmakers as they go into the final stretch of the year. He first encouraged a bipartisan team to reach a short-term compromise on cost-subsidies (subsidies he decided to end abruptly) and then shrugged his shoulders at what they came up with.

Over and over, this president has punted vexing issues to Capitol Hill: DACA, Iran, health care and largely tax reform. His team has offered few details about what he will and won’t sign (though the White House did release a statement applauding Senate Republicans for passing a budget late Thursday night and setting the stage to tackle tax reform).

However, if Trump keeps changing the rules of the game, or at least not defining them, senators may become even more reluctant to spend their time and energy negotiating deals on these tough topics.

The TIP with Cecilia Vega

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s briefing room appearance Thursday was entirely his idea, senior White House officials told ABC News. Kelly insisted on coming out to take this issue on publicly.

This wasn’t Trump ordering him to talk to the cameras.

Kelly is angry at the media and at Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

But he’s not mad at the president. Kelly very much sees this as an unfair attack on Trump and this administration.

And that is the overwhelming sentiment among West Wing sources.


  • Film director and activist Rob Reiner will join ABC News’ Rick Klein and Jon Karl for a special livestream of the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast at 12:45 p.m. Stream it live here:
  • Sen. John McCain will visit daughter Meghan McCain on “The View” on Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be on the show today.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions will deliver remarks in Texas on the administration’s immigration priorities.
  • This Week on ‘This Week’: Martha Raddatz goes one-on-one with former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus, exclusively on “This Week” on Sunday.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will depart on a tour of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland for bilateral meetings.
  • President Donald Trump will meet with the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The White House press briefing is at 2 p.m.

    “I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.” — Chief of Staff John Kelly on his reaction to Rep. Frederica Wilson’s criticism of the call President Trump made to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson.


  • Senate Republicans passed a budget late Thursday setting the stage for the GOP’s ultimate goal: tackling tax reform.
  • Amid controversy over phone calls to Gold Star families, parents of the fallen share their stories of past presidents reaching out.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly was “stunned” by Rep. Frederica Wilson’s politicization of a condolence call Trump made to the widow of a fallen soldier.
  • U.S. Special Forces have been in Niger for years. Here’s why:
  • The New York Daily News reports that the Trump campaign committee posted a petition Thursday demanding NFL players stand during the national anthem.
  • FiveThirtyEight’s Anna Maria Barry-Jester offers a simplified view of complicated state-by-state Obamacare payments:
  • Source:

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