White House chief of staff John Kelly has gone from the man who would save Trump to the latest guy on the chopping block.
Few members of Donald Trumps administration have fallen as far as retired general and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in large part because few members had far to fall in the first place.
Once, he was considered broadly by the press to be a nonpartisan steady hand who would clean up the White House and bring order to an administration that had none. But Kelly’s avid defense of Rob Porter following the story that he violently assaulted two ex-wives, and the subsequent controversy over what Kelly knew and when, has put his credibility and career on the line. The White House is in worse disarray than ever before.
A new report in the Washington Post finds overwhelming condemnation of Kelly by experts.
Former GOP presidential adviser Peter Wehner was horrified. “To have a chief of staff defend the integrity of a person who’s been credibly accused of being a wife beater is just stunning … and unconscionable. What he’s done as chief of staff doesn’t undo what he did as a heroic war figure, but it diminishes him as a person, and that’s regrettable,” Wehner told the Post.
Meanwhile, White House historian Chris Whipple called Kelly “politically inept” and said, “It’s clear now that those expectations everybody had that Kelly would somehow be the grown-up in the room, a moderating force who would smooth the rough edges off of Trump, were just completely unrealistic.”
While even a competent hand might have found taming Trump impossible, Kelly has eroded public confidence with a series of decisions that show his personal values are, in the worst possible sense, the same as Trump’s.
Before his tenure as chief of staff, there was cause to doubt Kelly would make reasonable decisions. In his capacity as homeland security secretary, he happily enforced Trumps Muslim travel ban and presided over immigration raids at churches and family courts.
Upon taking the reins at the White House, Kelly besmirched his name by praising Robert E. Lee, maliciously lying about a black congresswoman who stood up for a Gold Star widow Trump insulted, personally killing congressional deals meant to protect Dreamers, and claiming young people who didn’t sign up for DACA were “too lazy to get off their asses.”
But his defense of Porter may have been the last straw, not just with the media and the public but with Trump himself. One GOP official told Vanity Fair that Trump is “fucking pissed” about the Porter controversy, Jared and Ivanka are exploring replacements for Kelly, and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has urged Trump to get rid of him.
Far from bringing order to the West Wing, Kelly has brought it to a new humiliating low. And regardless of whether he stays or goes, the disrepute and failure he has wrought on himself and others will linger.