His reward for doing the most impossible job in Washington is that soon he’ll get to do the second-most impossible one.
In fact, his current job of trying to manage President Chaos is so impossible that Trump might not appoint a successor.
I wonder if Kelly thinks back sometimes to being in battle and remembers it as a relatively tranquil period in his life.
According to sources familiar with the situation, White House officials and Trump confidantes are currently discussing the possibility of moving Kelly to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. These people say that the collapse of Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson’s nomination has created an opening for Trump to slide Kelly into the role. It would give Kelly a soft landing, while also having the benefit of putting a qualified official in charge of the sprawling department. “They’re looking for a place for Kelly to land that won’t be embarrassing for him,” one Republican briefed on the conversations said…
[T]here has also been talk that Trump wouldn’t replace Kelly at all, instead relying on a coterie of deferential principals similar to the governance structure of the Trump Organization. With Larry Kudlow, John Bolton, and Steven Mnuchin, the president is already de facto operating in that manner. But formalizing such a management structure is still very much a long shot, the sources say.
Kelly’s been a chief of staff in name only (COSINO?) for weeks now. Here’s the opening to an AP story on April 5 describing his diminished power:
When President Donald Trump made a congratulatory phone call to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, White House chief of staff John Kelly wasn’t on the line.
When Trump tapped John Bolton to be his next national security adviser, Kelly wasn’t in the room.
And when Trump spent a Mar-a-Lago weekend stewing over immigration and trade, Kelly wasn’t in sight.
Trump had taken to telling friends that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly, per the AP, so he simply stopped consulting him on certain matters. When he did consult him, he often ignored his advice. Kelly reportedly urged Trump to dump EPA chief Scott Pruitt over his ethical headaches and to look past John Bolton for a replacement for H.R. McMaster. In both cases Trump did the opposite: Bolton’s in and Pruitt’s staying put (for the moment). There have been blow-ups too, with Kelly reportedly storming out of Trump’s office the day the last VA chief, David Shulkin, was fired because of the haphazard way in which it was handled. Reportedly it took Jim Mattis and Kirstjen Nielsen to call him down and talk him out of quitting.
Seems like he’s been phoning it in ever since. CNN reported a few days after the Shulkin blow-up that Kelly has cut back his schedule of three meetings a week with senior staffers to one and is “horrified” at Trump’s public attacks on Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein but seemingly resigned to the fact that there’s nothing he can do about it. Now, apparently, POTUS is mulling putting him in charge of the most notoriously sclerotic bureaucracy in the federal government. Why not go easy on him by putting him back on active duty as a Marine and stationing him in the farthest northern reaches of Alaska instead?
Or maybe just let him retire, write his Comey-esque tell-all book, and live out his years in the lap of luxury.
Could John Kelly even get confirmed for VA chief at this point? He was confirmed as DHS secretary by an overwhelming 88-11 vote but that was because his military pedigree gave him a claim to political neutrality at the time, especially compared to other Trump nominees like Jeff Sessions. That’s long, long gone now. Democrats would ding him for all sorts of political sins. He’d be grilled over the Rob Porter spousal-abuse fiasco; his war of words with Dem Rep. Frederica Wilson; his praise for Robert E. Lee; the business about some DACA eligibles being too “lazy” to sign up for the program; his broad support for Trump’s restrictionist immigration policies, and on and on. He’d probably slip through to confirmation like Mike Pompeo did, because red-state Democrats are nervous about blowing up Trump nominees with the midterms so close. But it’d be much closer to a 51/49 vote this time than 88/11.
And why the hell would Kelly want to do it? “Duty,” right, but he joined the Corps nearly 50 years ago and has been in public service ever since. I’d say he’s met his duty obligations. He’d get knocked around during his confirmation battle too, and then, if he was lucky and won the vote, he’d have the honor of going back to work for Trump in a famously thankless job and maybe becoming the next target of his daily sh*tposting on Twitter once the VA finds itself snared in a new scandal. There’s not enough money in the world. Let the man go play golf, for cripes sake.