What to roll your eyes at more—the chaos in the White House, or the fact that failed chief of staff John Kelly still gets descriptions like this:
John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, was brought into the White House to impose order, but less than a year later, the story of the Trump presidency is increasingly being shaped by people who don’t answer to him.
Well, yeah, because Donald Trump doesn’t answer to him. But also, that’s a sign that what we’re going to get may be full of White House gossip and leaks and backstabbing and anonymous quotes, but it won’t engage with Kelly’s own terrible record on policy and politics. So when Politico’s Nancy Cook rehashes the recent NBC report of Kelly having called Trump an idiot, it goes unmentioned that Kelly said Trump was an idiot because he might cut a deal with Democrats on immigration and spare Dreamers the fear of deportation. As for the fact that the story leaked at all:
“He doesn’t have control over the White House he runs,” said another senior administration official. “There’s no common purpose binding people together.”
Another administration official dismissed the NBC story as one planted by “a great number of people who were forced out on Kelly’s watch, as well as people on the inside who are not accustomed to having to report to anyone but the president.”
The same official stressed that this was also a story, in part, born out of people’s frustration over not receiving security clearances for top White House jobs — and added that the president had not been upset by the story.
“Some wrongly believe the chief stands between them and their security clearances, but it’s not his call,” the official added. “People have a hard time looking in the mirror. It’s a lot easier to train their anger on Gen. Kelly and blame him for why they don’t work there.”
So … Jared Kushner? But when the defense of eight people having leaked something that could be enormously damaging is essentially “oh, it’s just because people don’t respect the security clearance process,” that in itself is an indictment of Kelly’s leadership.
The rot comes from the top, though, and Kelly is not the guy at the top. He’s the flunky trying desperately to impose a veneer of professionalism on the guy at the top while endorsing and in fact pushing to implement that guy’s worst policy impulses.