When Donald Trump tapped Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, it was widely believed that he would bring a heavy dose of discipline to a White House that was severely lacking in it.
At first glance, he seemed to have succeeded. He put the entire staff–even First Daughter Ivanka Trump and First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner–on notice that if they wanted to meet with Trump, they had to go through him first. Almost his first official act upon being sworn in was to tell the outrageously vulgar White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, to pack up and leave. But, as it turns out, there’s one person that Kelly hasn’t been able to rein in–Trump himself.
It was initially thought that Kelly’s swift ouster of Scaramucci was a sign that he could handle Trump. After all, Scaramucci was, on the face of it, a younger version of the Donald. Ryan Lizza, whose interview with Scaramucci set in motion the chain of events that led to Scaramucci’s ouster, recalled something that happened long before Scaramucci was even in the picture that suggested Kelly could handle Trump. At a private briefing for current and former national security officials, Kelly revealed that he had seemingly persuaded Trump to back off on his dream of building a massive wall along the Mexican border. To Lizza’s mind, it sounded like Kelly was one person who could get Trump to abandon policies that could charitably be described as “cartoonish.”
Kelly openly admitted that he could not keep Trump on the same short leash that he appears to have set up for the White House staff. Nevertheless, it initially appeared that Kelly had subtly persuaded Trump to back off on his tendency to go on 140-character rants. Bloomberg reported early Sunday morning that Trump seemed to be willing to consult with Kelly before firing off a potentially explosive tweet. According to observers, Kelly frequently suggested “a different way to say the same thing.” Additionally, Trump’s Twitter feed of late had been mostly limited to patting himself or his supporters on the back.
But just 24 hours after Bloomberg went to press, Trump went on his latest unhinged morning Twitter rant–taking whacks at the “failing” New York Times, as well as a personal swipe at Senator Richard Blumenthal for embellishing his service in Vietnam. And just a few hours later, we got a sign that proved beyond any doubt that Kelly has more or less thrown up his hands. Even after Trump got sliced, diced, and julienned by veterans for his online slagging of Blumenthal’s service when he managed to defer his way out of serving at all, Trump saw fit to fire off this.
I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2017
Chances are that Kelly probably knew this screed was coming, and realized there was nothing he could do.
From the looks of it, Kelly has joined a long list of people who thought they could control Trump. Paul Manafort tried. His legal team tried. Melania, Ivanka, and Jared are still trying. Then again, they’ve all tried to do something that Trump’s dad, Fred, should have done years ago. Remember, this is a president who has never worked for anyone unrelated to him before. He’s never learned how to take constructive criticism. If he didn’t learn it in his twenties, how can he learn it now?
Kelly spent 46 years in the Marines, 41 of them as a commissioned officer. But none of that experience may have prepared him for the task of serving under a five-year-old trapped in a 71-year-old body. It looks like he’s learned that the hard way.
(featured image courtesy Department of Homeland Security, part of public domain)