General John Kelly, a second generation Irish American from Brighton, Mass, will shortly step into the role of Chief of Staff for President Trump in a desperate effort to realign and save his presidency.
I’m not so sure Trump is getting a great bargain.
Unlike the Secretary of Defense General “Mad Dog’ Mattis, Kelly has no history of standing up for himself with Trump. Quite the opposite in fact.
His job is doomed from the second he enters the Oval Office if he cannot get Trump to change. Trump is a bully and his own worst enemy and, worse, a political incompetent.
The consequences of those three factors have made him the most unpopular president in the modern era, Kelly is being asked to bail him out.
But I suspect Kelly is no Denis McDonough, Obama’s superb chief of staff, who guarded Obama access fiercely, cut off confrontations in the bud and delivered a seamless white House operation, whatever you thought of the politics being practiced.
Kelly will have to immediately contend with an elephant's ballet of clashing groups and priorities with family members, the Scaramucci New York mafia, long-time aides and right-wing zealots all believing they have Trump’s ear.
Can a military man bring order to such chaos? Contrary to what you think, the military mind, trained in clear objectives and line of command, may not be the best to handle Trump. He is the embodiment of asymmetrical warfare where surprise, cunning and guerilla tactics replace the old ways.
The ability to pit groups against each other, protect the access to the president, balance egos and demands and knock heads together will not come naturally to Kelly.
He has given no indication so far that he can stand up to and change this president. His problem is that as Head of Homeland Security Kelly, at Trump’s bidding, oversaw a relentless assault on the Hispanic community, who are as likely to be terrorists as Irish community members are. Kelly’s refusal to seek a more humane side to emigrant arrests does not speak well of him.
Kelly may also have trouble telling truth to power. Not telling Trump his Mexico wall is just another dumb idea, never likely to happen, and even if it did it would be a budget breaker is a huge problem.
Remember we are talking about a wall from Chicago to San Francisco, the equivalent distance.Kelly lacked the gumption, even in private, to argue against it as yet another piece of lunacy which it is.
It will be Kelly’s second job for Trump. As the Boston Globe reported “When Kelly, a former decorated Marine general, was nominated to be head of Homeland Security many hailed the pick and said Kelly would bring competence and sanity to an administration lacking in both qualities.’
That has definitely not proven to be the case. I don’t see how Kelly can succeed any better in the White House proper. It is a Mission Impossible. It was under an army Chief of Staff Alexander Haig that Nixon resigned rather than be impeached.
History may repeat itself.