Las Vegas bookmakers say President Trump has a 9-5 chance of completing his term. Of course, that’s subject to change at the speed of a tweet. But a riskier bet is that new White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly will be around half that long.
Kelly got off to an auspicious start by demanding the resignation of Anthony Scaramucci, whose 10 days as White House communications director were an obscenity-laced carnival ride.
President Trump apparently brought in Scaramucci to hasten the resignation of Reince Priebus, Kelly’s predecessor, who was suspected of leaking administration secrets to the press.
Relishing the assignment, Scaramucci, whose nickname is “the Mooch,” told reporters on a July 25 trip with Trump to Youngstown, Ohio: “If the leaks continue, then I’ve got to let everybody go.”
Later, in an interview with the New Yorker, Scaramucci used off-color language to describe White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as a self-loving egotist and Priebus as a “[expletive] paranoid schizophrenic.”
Priebus resigned, but it had become clear even to Trump that Scaramucci had to go, too. Kelly, who was already doing Trump’s bidding in chasing illegal immigrants as secretary of Homeland Security, accomplished that task within hours.
The retired Marine officer is accustomed to taking orders. He first entered the Marines in 1972, but only reached the rank of sergeant before being discharged. He went to college, got a degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, rejoined the Marines as an officer, and worked his way up through the ranks, deployed twice in Iraq as a general.
No doubt Kelly has had difficult commanders during his military career, but serving the mercurial Trump may be a bigger challenge. The president’s insistence on going his own way despite any advice he receives has angered members of his own party.
In a Politico magazine article, Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz,) said the Republican Party was in denial about Trump. “To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy,” said Flake, “required a determined suspension of critical faculties.”
He ominously suggested the Republican-controlled Congress had a responsibility to “assert itself at just such moments.” But there were no amens from his GOP brethren in the Senate. Meanwhile, Trump supporters in Arizona said Flake’s comments had dug his political grave.
Kelly’s job is to seek the “normalcy” in the White House that not just Flake but every sensible American wants.
With North Korea testing ICBMs that could reach the continent, the Russians tampering with our elections, and Congress fiddling with taxes and health care, disarray in the White House is the last thing this country needs.
President Barack Obama went through four chiefs of staff during his first term, but never was there a comparable sense of turmoil to what the White House is enduring now. Kelly may be able to correct that, but only if Trump can be as disciplined as the general.