Place Your Bets: How Long Will John Kelly Fight the Good Fight?

When John Kelly was brought on as the new White House chief of staff, I gave him 6 months before he threw up his hands in disgust and walked.

I may have to adjust that original assessment downward.


As a retired Marine general, Kelly is used to order. In fact, it’s why he was brought on. From day one of the Trump administration, it was chaos, because Donald Trump was in over his head, and if there’s one true rule of survival, it’s that you don’t get too close to a drowning man. He will take you down with him. Kelly was supposed to be the man with the life jacket and years of experience in search and rescue techniques.The hope was that he would be able to keep the Trump presidency from becoming a floater, bobbing helplessly and without direction for the next several years.

He’s made some progress. He’s trimmed away some of the maniacs Trump brought into the White House with him (and in the case of Anthony Scaramucci, some of the riff raff Trump employed later). He’s limited access to Trump’s office, in order to keep Trump from becoming distracted and agitated by the fake news dumps some of his clingers like to put on his desk, just to watch him spit and rage.

However, if a recent New York Times article is accurate, Kelly could soon tire of the gargantuan task that has been placed in his lap.

While Mr. Kelly has quickly brought some order to a disorganized and demoralized staff, he is fully aware of the president’s volcanic resentment about being managed, according to a dozen people close to Mr. Trump, and has treaded gingerly through the minefield of Mr. Trump’s psyche. But the president has still bridled at what he perceives as being told what to do.


In other words, Trump brought him on to bring some order, but he didn’t think he’d have to be an active participant in the process.

As a result of that misunderstanding, Kelly is now finding himself in the same position as others who’ve tried to make this look like a legitimate administration. Trump is pouting, and lashing out like the petulant, spoiled child he is.

“It is inevitable that a guy who will not be contained and does not want to be handled or managed was going to rebel against the latest manager who wanted to control him,” said Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser, who believes Mr. Kelly represents a kind of management coup by “the triumvirate” of two powerful retired generals — Mr. Kelly and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary — and one general who is still in the Army, the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.

“Ultimately Donald Trump is his own man, and he’s going to resist all the control and regimented systems Kelly is trying to impose,” Mr. Stone said.

Meanwhile, President Trump is playing the role, suggesting that he’s perfectly happy and impressed with Kelly.

He even tweeted out his approval on Friday.

Yeah. That’s real good, but it’s not really in line with other reports.

President Trump was in an especially ornery mood after staff members gently suggested he refrain from injecting politics into day-to-day issues of governing after last month’s raucous rally in Arizona, and he responded by lashing out at the most senior aide in his presence.

It happened to be his new chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly, the former Marine general brought in five weeks ago as the successor to Reince Priebus, reacted calmly, but he later told other White House staff members that he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of serving his country. In the future, he said, he would not abide such treatment, according to three people familiar with the exchange.


And everybody saw the now-infamous shot of John Kelly’s face, when Trump went off script and began lashing out at those who opposed his initial reaction to Charlottesville. The day before, he’d delivered a begrudging condemnation of white nationalists, but he couldn’t hold it long.

Kelly stood to the side, arms cross and head down, looking like a man losing a battle.

There will be more days like that, so how many will Kelly have to tote the blame for?

I have to imagine that if he feels that disrespected and he’s not making the progress he should, he won’t stick around for much longer.

Who needs that stress?




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