White House Chief of Staff John Kelly must really be loathing his life, right now. He’s in a thankless job, tasked with babysitting a petulant man-child that has, somehow, astonishingly, bungled his way into the highest seat of power in the country.
I say bungled. The truth is, he ran a good con on Republican voters, fatigued by 8 years of President Obama’s arrogance and liberal virtue signaling.
We were a nation weakened, and ready to swallow any snake oil offered, as long as it was made to sound like a radical cure.
And now we’ve got to deal with the most inept, unscrupulous of mountebanks, and somebody needs to get him under control.
The first choice for White House Chief of Staff was former RNC chairman, Reince Priebus. He earned the spot for being a particularly greasy weasel – just the kind of toady Trump required. He couldn’t make it through the first year in his position, before learning that any expectation of loyalty from his liege was a mistake. He was bounced and Kelly was brought in, with the hope that his no-nonsense, military background could bring some order to a chaotic administration.
It worked for about a minute.
A new AP report suggests that President Trump is now rebelling against Kelly’s strict controls on what goes on in the White House. He’s making decisions without Kelly’s input. He’s excluding Kelly from phone calls with world leaders (as he did with the congratulatory call to Russia’s Vladimir Putin), and he’s even bringing divisive people back into his circle (Think: Corey Lewandowski).
With all this going on, could it be a case of John Kelly’s days being numbered?
The White House statement, as relayed by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently, is that there are no impending changes in the administration. We all know how that story goes, by now.
Some are saying that Trump has enough experience under his belt that Kelly has chosen to step back, allowing Trump more freedom in how he governs.
Yeah. That doesn’t sound right.
But those close to the president say that Trump has increasingly expressed fatigue at Kelly’s attempts to shackle him and that while Trump is not ready to fire Kelly, he has begun gradually freezing out his top aide.
Trump recently told one confidant that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly and has instead chosen to simply not tell Kelly things at all, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Of those things Kelly has reportedly been cut out of (like the Putin call), one was the hiring of John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster.
The AP reports that Kelly had no problem with replacing McMaster, but that he did advise against appointing Bolton.
Trump apparently offered the position to Bolton in a one-on-one session, anyway.
“It’s not tenable for Kelly to remain in this position so weakened,” said Chris Whipple, author of “Gatekeepers,” a history of modern White House chiefs of staff. “More than any of his predecessors, Donald Trump needs an empowered chief of staff to tell him what he does not want to hear. Trump wants to run the White House like the 26th floor of Trump Tower, and it’s simply not going to work.”
It’s not a good look to be a White House chief of staff with little to no influence with the president. Some recent reports are that Trump has considered cutting the position out, entirely. If he’s not listening to his chief of staff and is continuously undercutting him, then he’s effectively done that, anyway.
Other reports are that the Rob Porter incident and Kelly’s initial handling has also rubbed some among the White House staff the wrong way.
Kelly’s shifting version of events elicited frustration from former communications director Hope Hicks, who had been dating Porter, and dismayed a number of West Wing staffers. That episode frustrated Trump, who still remains agitated about an interview that Kelly gave to Fox News months ago in which he suggested that Trump had “evolved” in his thinking about the need for a wall on the Mexican border.
Kelly, who took the job last July, had previously told confidants he hoped to be on the job for a year. One person familiar with his thinking said the chief of staff recently voiced doubt he would make it that far.
So even Kelly thinks his days are numbered.
There’s no clear indication that Kelly will be out anytime soon, but nobody is harboring the notion that he’ll last for the entirety of Trump’s term as president.