Tag Archives: John Kelly

Too many generals around Trump? Maybe, but then again …

A former Joint Chiefs chairman says he is concerned that Donald J. Trump has surrounded himself with too many generals.

Retired Navy Admiral Mike Mullen — who served as Joint Chiefs chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama — said that Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, two former U.S. Marine Corps generals, lack “political experience.” The same can be said, according to Mullen, about former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who is an active-duty U.S. Army lieutenant general.

“Jim Mattis, and John Kelly and H.R. McMaster are not politicians, but they’re operating in this political world inside the White House,” Mullen said. “It is a tough, difficult, political environment.”

OK, I get Mullen’s concern.

I’m not sure he needs to be overly concerned. I look at the generals’ presence a little differently. These men all have combat experience, which means they understand the consequences of war. It’s been said that warriors quite often are the last individuals who want to go to war. They know too well the grief and misery it brings.

Admiral Mullen perhaps ought to be more concerned that the commander in chief is reluctant to listen the best advice he gets from those “best people” with whom he pledged to bring aboard his administrative team.

This POTUS is totally untrustworthy … period!

White House chief of staff John Kelly sought to tamp down concerns among his colleagues by telling them there are no more staff changes on the horizon.

How does this man know this? I am going to presume — at my own risk, of course — that Donald J. Trump has told him so.

Kelly then relayed what might be assurances from the president that everyone in the White House can settle down now. Relax. Go about doing their jobs. No worries about their futures or their bosses’ futures.

Except for this: How does anyone trust a single word, let alone sentence, that flies out of Donald Trump’s mouth?

Trump has demonstrated a penchant for unpredictability. Doesn’t he brag about it, along with his sexual prowess and how smart he is? Doesn’t he say that unpredictability enhances his effectiveness as president of the United States?

So, with all that established, does it make any sense at all to take a single thing this guy says? How does one take his utterances at face value? How does one trust someone who lies with absolutely no concern over its consequences?

It might be that Kelly is trying to put as positive a face as he can on the chaos that has erupted yet again inside the West Wing. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing came without warning to Tillerson — or anyone else, for that matter. Trump told Tillerson the way he told the rest of the world: via Twitter. Classy, yes? Umm. No!

So now we hear from the White House chief of staff that there are no more firings upcoming.

Let’s all wait until, oh, the sun comes up in the morning.

Tomorrow’s a new day. A new set of crises awaits a stir-crazy nation. That’s how the president likes to operate. Or so he says.

Gowdy poses relevant question to White House

Trey Gowdy is a South Carolina Republican U.S. House member who’s planning to leave Congress at the end of the year.

He’s not done asking relevant questions. Gowdy has one for the White House.

How did Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who quit after allegations of spousal abuse surfaced, operate without the proper security clearance for as long as he did?

Gowdy has posed the question to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who’s supposed to keep track of such things. Porter worked with an “interim” clearance, even though he had been accused by two former wives of beating them up.

I’ve always thought that such a rap would disqualify someone from gaining access to the kind of documents that Porter was allowed to handle. Rep. Gowdy wants to know how this happened in a White House that is supposed to run — in the words of the president — like a “fine-tuned machine.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray also has testified that the FBI knew long ago about Porter’s alleged domestic trouble, which has shot holes in Kelly’s assertion that the White House was blindsided by the allegations.

I believe Gen. Kelly has some explaining to do.

Kelly’s a downer; Trump is worse

Political junkies such as yours truly are writing about White House chiefs of staff lately. The trials, troubles and travails of John Kelly have elevated this post to the top of our minds.

Seriously, though, Kelly only deserves part of the blame for what ails the White House these days.

The main source of the difficulty rests with the man who sits behind the big ol’ desk in the Oval Office. Donald Trump’s the Public Culprit No. 1.

Kelly is unlikely to last much longer as chief of staff, no matter what he says about his desire to stay on the job or what the president says about his faith in the job Kelly is doing. This Rob Porter matter is threatening to swallow Gen. Kelly whole. Indeed, Kelly — a retired Marine Corps four-star general — has made a mess of the controversy surrounding Porter’s alleged spouse-beating.

The question has to center now on who would want the job after Kelly departs. Who, indeed, would subject himself to the whims and whimsy of the president?

Trump doesn’t take guidance well. He wants to be his own man. I can’t blame him for that, except that as president he needs a chief of staff who’ll tell him the truth, even when it hurts. Kelly apparently can’t do that.

Successful White House chiefs of staff — men such as James Baker III, Leon Panetta, Dick Cheney come to mind — have employed considerable political expertise to tell the presidents they served when they were making a mistake. I’m trying to imagine John Kelly delivering that kind of advice to Donald Trump. I can’t get there.

Trump operates in a constant state of chaos. He is tempestuous by nature. He relishes conflict. How can a president function successfully when his world is full of tumult and tension? He cannot. It’s that clear and simple.

So it now becomes a question of who is going to sign on to be the 45th president’s next whipping boy?

Donald Trump promised he would surround himself with “the best people.” The best of the best has to be the individual who runs the White House. Good luck finding someone to fill that bill.

Gen. Kelly: in over his head

It pains me to say this, but here goes.

John Kelly is in over his head as White House chief of staff. However, it’s not entirely his fault. I have concluded that Kelly should resign and try to the best of his ability to salvage his reputation.

Kelly took over as chief of staff after Reince Priebus was shoved out the door. The thought — which I shared at the time — was that the retired Marine Corps general would whip the staff into shape. He would make ’em toe the line. He would bark orders and they would follow.

Here, though, is where that theory broke down: Two issues make it impossible for that to happen. The chief of staff needs political skill; Kelly’s Marine Corps training didn’t provide it. What’s more, the president of the United States also needs political skill; Donald Trump’s history as a self-aggrandizing business mogul and reality TV celebrity damn sure didn’t give him that skill, either.

Kelly has now been caught in a vise. Rob Porter quit as staff secretary in the White House after revelations that he beat up his former wives and a former girlfriend. He didn’t have the proper security clearance because the FBI was examining complaints against him that surfaced months ago. Yet he was hired anyway. Kelly knew all that and let it ride.

Kelly reportedly kept it secret from the president. That’s another no-no.

The conventional wisdom all along has been that the 45th president presents a unique set of circumstances that no one has seen before. He possesses zero political expertise. Yes, he waged a successful presidential campaign, of which he is more than happy to keep reminding us. But campaigning and governing are entirely different disciplines. Trump was a stellar campaigner but there is no one within his inner circle who can tell this individual the hard truth about the political implications of the decisions he makes.

Thus, the president is left to function on his own in an environment with which he has no previous exposure.

Gen. Kelly was supposed to provide him some cover. He hasn’t done it. He won’t be able to do it for as long as he occupies the chief of staff’s office.

The Rob Porter mess is only getting messier. John Kelly appears incapable of cleaning it up. The White House message machine is confused and chaotic.

Moreover, the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, has become a key player in that melodrama. Hicks is dating Porter. Yet she helped draft the statement that declared how her boyfriend is such an honorable man? Who in the world allowed her to put her hands on that statement? None other than John Kelly, who should have recognized immediately the conflict of interest that Hicks presented.

Gen. Kelly has served this country with high honor and distinction — as a decorated Marine! Hardly any of that background transfers to the White House chief of staff job.

The question now becomes, in the event Gen. Kelly calls it quits: Who in the world is Donald John Trump able to find who can perform the duties required of a White House chief of staff?

For that matter, who in the world would want that job, given the idiocy that emanates from the Oval Office?

Trump’s ‘machine’ keep misfiring

I keep circling back to a description that Donald John Trump hung on his presidential administration.

He has called it a “fine-tuned machine.” He meant, I presume, to suggest that the administration was firing on all cylinders, that is purring like a kitten, that it is well-lubed/oiled. Pick whatever metaphor you think the president intended.

Now we have yet another example of that machine grinding its gears. It has flown off the rails. It’s in the ditch … yet again.

The White House has stumbled back into crisis management mode. Chief of staff John Kelly is under intense examination for the way he handled — or mishandled — the circumstances surrounding former staff secretary Rob Porter and the allegations that he beat up his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend.

Porter has quit. A speechwriter has quit because of allegations that he abused his former wife.

The question at hand is what Kelly knew and when he knew it. He denies knowing long ago that Porter had been suspected of spousal abuse. There has been credible reporting that Kelly did know months ago, long before it all blew up this past week.

The president reportedly is angry over what Kelly knew and what he didn’t divulge to the boss — that would be Trump — about the questions regarding Porter’s conduct.

Media have reported that Kelly offered to resign. Kelly denies making that offer. White House officials are now struggling to clear up the “message” coming from the West Wing.

Chaos has revealed itself again at the White House.

We are not witnessing a “fine-tuned machine” at work. What we are watching is a jalopy in need of yet another major overhaul.

It’s time for Gen. Kelly to go

I’m wrong more than I am right. John Kelly moved from one key Trump administration post to another one amid high hopes that he would whip his new office into shape.

I was among those who had longed for a transformation and thought Kelly would be able to deliver it. I was mistaken.

Kelly needs to leave the White House chief of staff job. I hope he can resign under his own power, so to speak, and be done with it.

The White House mess has deepened in recent days with accusations that former staff secretary Rob Porter assaulted his two former wives and a former girlfriend. Kelly has made an utter hash of the White House response.

The key question now is whether Kelly knew about the allegations long before he said he did and kept it from the president of the United States. It appears that’s the case.

Kelly once ran the Homeland Security Department. He moved to the chief of staff post after Reince Priebus had lost control of the White House operation. Kelly, a decorated Marine Corps general, was seen as a supreme control freak and someone who could bring discipline and order to the West Wing. Sadly, that effort appears to have failed.

I am in no position, of course, to recommend anyone to the chief’s job. It’s painfully clear to me that Gen. Kelly has squandered his opportunity to right a listing operation.

He cannot disparage those who accuse a key aide of serious misconduct. He cannot be an apologist for a president who continues to exhibit a horrifying blind spot when it allegations from women surface about the conduct of men. My hope was that his Marine training and his understanding of the meaning of public service would have served him better in this critical job.

Gen. Kelly must go. Immediately.

Say it ain’t so, Gen. Kelly

Of all the people among Donald Trump’s closest advisers, the one I admire the most might be headed for some serious trouble.

The question being posed for White House chief of staff John Kelly is this: What did he know about former staff secretary Rob Porter’s alleged assault on two former wives and when did he know it? Yes, I am appropriating the famous question from the late, great GOP Sen. Howard Baker during the Watergate scandal, but it surely applies today.

Kelly, the retired Marine general who came in to whip the White House staff into shape, is being examined over the timing of what he knew about Porter’s alleged abuse of his former wives. White House press flacks say Kelly only was “fully aware” a few days ago; but media are reporting that Gen. Kelly was made aware months ago when Porter was first hired as one of the president’s closest advisers.

Which is it, Gen. Kelly? Did you know early on or were you oblivious to what others around you reportedly knew?

Yes, Gen. Kelly has disappointed me in recent months. I had high hopes that he would guide Donald Trump toward a more reasoned, nuanced course as president. Sadly, it appears that he has followed Trump’s lead in denying accusations and calling accusers liars.

However, I still admire the service Kelly has given to our country and I hope he’s truthful, that he didn’t know about Porter’s criminal behavior until just the other day.

I do know that hope too often loses to reality.

Another of Trump’s ‘best people’ takes a hike

The hits — no pun intended — keep on coming at the White House.

Rob Porter, the staff secretary to the president of the United States, has resigned. Porter’s departure, though, comes amid allegations that he assaulted his two former wives, one of whom he beat up while the two of them were, um, on their honeymoon.

Porter denies the allegations. White House chief of staff John Kelly originally called him a man of “honor,” then walked back his high praise when the allegations became known. White House press officials said that Kelly became “fully aware” only recently, despite reports that Kelly knew about the allegations months ago.

As for Donald Trump, he supposedly didn’t know, either until just the other day about what the ex-wives have accused Porter of doing to them.

This breakdown in proper vetting represents yet again a serious breakdown in the screening of key White House personnel.

National security adviser Michael Flynn was ousted after lying to the FBI and to Vice President Pence about conversations with Russian election hackers; former chief strategist Stephen Bannon got the boot after he, too, got caught up in the Russia matter; ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus was shoved out because he couldn’t control the White House.

On and on it has gone.

Now it’s Porter, one of the president’s closest aides. Porter, who’s now dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, is supposed to have the highest security clearance possible to do his job, which includes handling hypersensitive documents. He didn’t have one.

Good grief, man!

The president wants to invoke what he calls “extreme vetting” to keep undesirable immigrants from entering the United States of America.

How about some extreme vetting of the people with whom he surrounds himself? He pledged to hire “the best people” to make key decisions and to provide critical advice.

Rob Porter has now been accused of beating his wives. This is how Trump defines “the best people”?

Oh, Gen. Kelly, you are beginning to disappoint

John Kelly took command of the White House staff amid great expectations that he’d continue to earn the respect he deserved as a decorated Marine Corps officer — and a Gold Star father.

This week, Gen. Kelly knocked himself down a few pegs in my estimation. For what purpose? To declare that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man” who fought on behalf of his state during the Civil War.

No! No! No! Gen. Kelly, he fought against the United States of America. Gen. Lee wanted to preserve slavery. He wanted to keep human beings in bondage. He wanted to maintain a federal policy that said slaves were three-fifths human.

How can that be honorable? Moreover, Gen. Kelly, how can you suggest with a straight face that a “failure to find compromise” was the reason the nation tore itself in two, killing 600,000 Americans on both sides of the Civil War?

No, sir. Slavery could not be compromised. It was an evil chapter of American history. It needed to be wiped out, eradicated. The Civil War commenced because the Confederacy was unwilling to surrender to demands to end the enslavement of human beings.

Reaction is swift

The Congressional Black Caucus, understandably, has been quick to challenge Kelly’s assertions about the cause of the Civil War. Kelly critics have suggested he needs to re-read some historical accounts of what drove the nation into this horrible, bloody conflict.

I so had hoped Kelly would be the right tonic for the White House operational mixture that boiled and simmered under Reince Priebus’s tenure as chief of staff.

I heard someone say a few weeks ago that Donald J. Trump has the rare skill of making everyone around worse than they were before they joined him. I fear he might be having that kind of impact on Gen. John Kelly.

Sad, eh?