John Kelly's media debut: Pointed, refreshing and was that a smile?

In non-Weinstein news, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly took a rare turn at the White House briefing podium Thursday and proved that indeed Marines can do anything.


In front of a usually aggressive, even hostile press corps that Kelly’s boss calls enemies of the people, the former general actually smiled. No, really. You don’t see many smiles around that place in recent months. And Kelly seemed to enjoy himself, gently jostling with journalists as he once did skillfully s a general and Homeland Security secretary.

This administration’s image is often reflected in Trump’s angry tweets, especially about the media or other political players. And then Sarah Sanders is sent in to defend the president.

So, someone with great authority taking nearly 25 minutes of briefings that this administration once threatened to cancel to answer seriously all questions directly and succinctly was quite refreshing — and for this White House image — very useful.

At some points, Kelly was kidding on the square: “Although I read it all the time pretty consistently, I’m not quitting today. (Laughter.) I don’t believe — and I just talked to the President — I don’t think I’m being fired today. (Laughter.) And I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”

Good humored joking about the plethora of media stories based on anonymous sources about Kelly and others in Trump’s circle of life being angry, frustrated and about to quit. What was also striking, however, was the laughter. Professional journalists, who enjoy First Amendment protections, laughing out loud about basing their stories on unaccountable anonymous sources, then delivering dead-wrong information to readers and viewers.


Kelly added:

I’m a reasonable guy, but when I read in the morning — I read the — well, I won’t tell you what I read — but when I watch TV in the morning, it is astounding to me how much is misreported. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are operating off of contacts, leaks, whatever you call them. But I would just offer to you the advice: I would say maybe develop some better sources.

Does Kelly feel frustrated?:

No, I’m not frustrated. This is really, really hard work running the United States of America. I don’t run it, but I’m working for someone who is dedicated to serving the country in the way that he’s talked about for a number of years. There are incredible challenges — you know, economic challenges, healthcare challenges, all of that; obviously international challenges that have to be dealt with.

I don’t mean any criticism to Mr. Trump’s predecessors, but there is an awful lot of things that were, in my view, kicked down the road that have come home to roost, pretty much right now, that have to be dealt with. 

This is hard, hard work, John. And my only frustration, with all due respect to everyone in the room, is when I come to work in the morning and read about things I allegedly said, or things that Mr. Trump allegedly said, or people who are going to be fired, or whatever you all think.  And it’s just not true.

Kelly talked about a number of issues and you can see the entire transcript here. It’s worth a few minutes to get your own read on the man closest to the president. We’re focusing here on Kelly’s job description:


You know, it’s funny — I read in the paper — well, you all know, you write it — that I’ve been a failure at controlling the President, or a failure at controlling his tweeting, and all that. Again, I was not sent in — or I was not brought to this job to control anything but the flow of information to our President so that he can make the best decisions.

I have found that Mr. Trump, from the day I met him, does not — he’s a decisive guy. He’s a very thoughtful man, I should say. He takes information in from every avenue he can receive it. I restrict no one, by the way, from going in to see him.  But when we go in to see him now, rather than onesies and twosies, we go in and help him collectively understand what he needs to understand to makes these vital decisions.

So again, I was not sent in to — or brought in to control him, and you should not measure my effectiveness as a Chief of Staff by what you think I should be doing. But simply, the fact is, I can guarantee to you that he is now presented with options, well thought-out options. Those options are discussed in detail with his team, and then he comes up with the right decision.

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