The new high level employment of Gen. John Kelly (Ret.) isn’t likely to last more than six months. And that may be generous.
In a very real sense, a White House Chief of Staff is administrative president of the United States. The guy he works for gets his picture taken a lot. If the CofS does his job, he’s in very few pictures. The president makes public statements and handles the outward artifices of politics. The CofS does the nitty gritty of making those statements reality and is detail-oriented to always make the boss look good.
CofS runs the staff. Almost nothing gets to the President he hasn’t seen or approved. He hires and fires. He organizes, assigns work, ramrods the smallest details, is gate keeper to his boss and, in the best circumstances, has a full range of authority. The CofS is the eyes and ears of the administration, the top collector of information, the dispenser of rules and the power behind the Oval Office.
He has one other job. Telling the President when he’s wrong. When he is. Which, currently, is daily. About most everything. He’s as close to being a remote conscience as Jiminy Cricket.
Now, set all that aside. Now, think of a man in his 70's who’s completed 45 years of military service - a “Marine’s Marine” - who’s lived his entire adult life going from a stripe on his sleeve to four stars on his shoulder. His body carries wounds of combat while his head is filled with massive details that go with command of hundreds of thousands of men and women. In peace and on the battlefield. Imagine four decades of being instantly ready to carry out any order - or give one - expecting the same immediate response.
All of that - and more - is Ret. Marine General John Kelly. Who is now in the employ of one Donald Trump.
It’s not necessary to “background” Trump. You know him. If there were ever two lives lived at opposite ends of a set of values, you’d be hard-pressed to find better examples.
Trump has filled his White House offices with arrogant egos, political newcomers with little to no experience of how to successfully operate at the top of government. Dozens of political neophytes and political zealots. He’s attracted hangers-on bringing no experienced skills to their new jobs. He’s got a staff filled with wannabees looking out for themselves and not for the President. And now, after the firing of the previous Chief of Staff and a trash-mouthed communications boss, Kelly is inheriting an incompetent and lying press spokesperson, power struggles within the offices and the Trump family as well. Senior staff conditions that could be properly likened to a snake pit.
These are the people and the working conditions being dropped in Gen. Kelly’s lap. A man with the reputation of a “straight shooter” is being tasked to bring order to a gang that can’t shoot straight. He’s got dozens of employees with no first-person familiarity with anything military - part of a generation that abhors restrictions in anything. He’ll compete with family members, in-laws, business partners and now lawyers having absolute access to the Oval Office and who won’t be giving up that access anytime soon.
But most of all, he’s going to have to take orders from a racist, lying, unprincipled, duplicitous misogynist who, thus far, has ignored all attempts at self-control and adherence to decorum from any and every one. He’ll be dealing daily with someone with no understanding of military codes of honor, ethics and brotherhood.
His marching orders will come from someone who takes orders from no one - who has no understanding of the structure and roles of the separate branches of government much less military and political protocols - a man who has proven he honors no agreements or contracts - a president who advocates police brutality and believes the presidency carries with it supreme powers akin to dictatorships.
In other words, the military respect for authority, personal responsibility, honor and truth of a Gen. Kelly will run smack into a commander-in-chief devoid of such characteristics who’ll be assigning his daily duties. What could possibly go wrong?
The only “positive” factor here is that, currently, Kelly believes in Trump, voted for him and has - so far - managed to overlook nearly all of Trump’s massive flaws and shortcomings.
But, how long will a principled former U.S. Marine general stand his post, defending a boss who neither respects nor practices the qualities that have combined to make Kelly the respected wearer of the four stars his lifetime career has bestowed?
Six months may be entirely too long a prediction.