How long can John Kelly last if he … succeeds?
Ben Shapiro sees the problem coming from a hundred miles away.
If Kelly tamps down the leaks, convinces Trump to maybe go easy on flaming members of his cabinet on Twitter, and manages to get a health-care bill through the Senate, he’ll be on the cover of Time magazine under a blaring “IN COMMAND” headline. And Trump will go apesh*t. Bannon’s “Great Manipulator” Time cover reportedly contributed to his isolation from the narcissist-in-chief; any similar media treatment of Kelly vis-a-vis him whipping the White House into shape or imposing “discipline” on the president or whatever will lead to a meltdown in the reactor core of Trump’s psyche. Like Shapiro says, it’s Catch-22. Either Kelly fails to impose order in the West Wing and Trump dumps him, or he succeeds, gets a ton of public credit, and … Trump dumps him. It’s the Kobayashi Maru of ego management.
I wonder how Trump will react if and when he reads this:
A hint of Kelly’s potential influence on Trump emerged two weeks ago, in Aspen, Colorado, when Kelly made a startling revelation. According to several sources who attended a private briefing that included some of the nation’s most senior current and former national-security officials, Kelly sought to ease their minds about one of the most controversial and famous Trump proposals: the border wall with Mexico. Many of the current and former officials were deeply skeptical of Trump, and surprised that Kelly, a respected Marine Corps general, would even take a job working for him.
Kelly explained that he had spent a great deal of time talking through the issue with Trump, and he believed he had convinced the President that he didn’t actually need to build a physical wall along the entire nineteen-hundred-mile-long border between the United States and Mexico. Instead, the use of sophisticated monitoring technology, air surveillance, and fencing could secure the border with what Trump could start calling a “barrier.”
That’s completely plausible. Remember, it was Mattis who reportedly convinced Trump to abandon his support for waterboarding. It may be that the president (to his credit) is willing to defer to the judgments of trusted advisors, particularly if they’re respected former generals like Mattis and Kelly, even on bread-and-butter components of his populist approach. But, knowing what we know about him, it’s hard to believe he’d enjoy knowing those advisors are taking credit in front of audiences for having flipped him from his previous position. Similarly, here’s a bit of satire that presages the difficulties to come:
Trump’s not reading The Onion, I’m sure, but that’s the sort of treatment that awaits Kelly on “Morning Joe” and CNN if he does well in his new role. How will Trump’s ego cope with his new chief of staff being treated as though he’s some sort of ingenious zookeeper who finally figured out how to tame the “problem” gorilla? That’d be hard for a president with a normal-ish ego to stomach. Trump’s isn’t normal-ish.
One more bit of Kelly-related news that made me laugh today:
The idea that the Trump family didn’t know what they were getting when they hired Scaramucci is farcical. If he was willing to be profane with the New Yorker about his contempt for Reince Priebus, lord only knows what he sounds like behind closed doors among friends like the Trumps. It’s been reported by more than one outlet (Politico, Vanity Fair) that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were among Mooch’s strongest supporters in the White House. And why wouldn’t they be? He’s a New York guy and a world-class ass-kisser. They may have been surprised that he’d talk the way he did on the record to the media but that was surely how they were expecting him to talk to the communications team. In their own weird way, they may have viewed Mooch as a would-be disciplinarian and enforcer not unlike John Kelly.
Now, to save face, they’re feeding people nonsensical BS that Scaramucci was brought in for the sole purpose of forcing Priebus out. That’s pure idiocy, as Ed explained earlier. They knew who he was and they wanted him because of it. It was only when Kelly said no way, I’m sure, that they relented. Forced to choose between the two, they chose the embarrassment of firing a clownish loudmouth comms chief who’d been on the job for 11 days over the embarrassment of firing a respected general turned DHS secretary who’d been on the job for three. Good choice!