The No-win Proposition of John Kelly’s White House Tenure—Succeed or Fail, America Still Loses

by Kerry Eleveld –

John Kelly, a former Marine general, found the White House he is now overseeing unseemly. The New York Times writes:

In his six months as Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly often described the White House as one of the most dysfunctional organizations he had ever seen, complained to colleagues and allies about its meddling, incompetence and recklessness, and was once so angry he briefly considered quitting.

Yet after months of entreaties from the man who created and fostered all that dysfunction Kelly despised, he finally accepted a position that will most certainly test his integrity, his leadership skills and his depth of commitment to country. He can count on that because Donald Trump manages to bring everything he touches down to the depths of his low-level vibration—he is currently destroying U.S. standing in the world at record pace. Still, Kelly is reportedly giving it his Marine best.

Mr. Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence. He listens in on conversations between cabinet secretaries and the president. He has booted lingering staff members out of high-level meetings, and ordered the doors of the Oval Office closed to discourage strays. He fired Anthony Scaramucci, the bombastic New Yorker who was briefly the communications director, and has demanded that even Mr. Trump’s family, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, check with him if they want face time with the president.

On Wednesday, his third day on the job, he delivered a message about respecting chains of command, backing the decision of Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to dismiss Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Kushner ally and staff member on the National Security Council. It was a move Mr. Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, had long opposed, according to two administration officials.

The internal tension here is obvious, and everyone in Washington is bent on conjecturing about whether buttoned-up Kelly can succeed in containing meltdown Trump.

But the whole bargain has sort of a no-win proposition to it. The nation needs someone to babysit Trump, who clearly presents a danger to our national security. Who knows when some errant Trump tweet might launch a war?

On the other hand, Kelly’s relative success also poses a threat to the very foundations of our democracy. What does it mean to have a former general, with all his military instincts and connections, exercising such hyper-vigilant control within the White House? And if Kelly does manage to improve efficiencies in the West Wing which would presumably spread throughout the administration, he will be helping to give expression to Trump’s most regrettable policies, such as unleashing law enforcement officials to target immigrants and people of color with impunity.

The one saving grace of Trump’s White House has been the baffling level of incompetence that spills forth from it on a daily, near hourly basis. Kelly’s success would breathe new life into a monster that has been at least partially hobbled by the failings of its creator. But his failure leaves our nation and the world at grave risk.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos