Kelly facing Herculean task at White House

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2017

By Chuck Witt

Well, Marine General John Kelly has been moved from Secretary of Homeland Security to White House Chief of Staff.

There have, in the long history of presidents of the United States, been many chiefs of staff who were unable or incapable of doing a proper job, Reince Priebus being the most recent example.

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General Kelly is a four-star Marine general, a rank not easily attained by people who are unable or incompetent. Usually, when Marines reach a level at which they cannot perform the functions expected of them, they are relegated to backwater posts and allowed to retire. This obviously has never happened to General Kelly.

So it will be interesting to see how he functions in his new post.

Kelly rose through the ranks, entering the Marines as a private, so he has witnessed and taken part in every level of command, from junior NCO to his current status.

Marines typically don’t accept substandard performance or refusal to adhere to high principles, some things that seem to be lacking thus far amongst the White House staff. Someone recently said that he doesn’t suffer fools and lack of discipline, both of which he will find in ample supply.

Mr. Anthony Scaramucci is now gone, almost immediately after Kelly assumed the office and only 10 days after Scaramucci joined the staff. Perhaps Mr. Scaramucci’s outrageous behavior proved to be something that Kelly could not condone.

One can be pretty sure that Scaramucci’s liberal use of profanity did not impress Kelly. It’s rare that anyone is capable of out-cussing a Marine, and Kelly, who came up through the ranks, has probably accumulated a vast vocabulary capable of serving any occasion.

Further, Kelly is 67 years old and probably realizes he is reaching the terminus of his career, so he may very well view this new job as a final entry to his resume, in which case he is less likely to endure malfeasance or nonfeasance than might pertain if he were younger and possibly looking toward a further career in government.

Many pundits agree the first six months of the Trump administration have been chaotic; there have already been about eight departures of people in high position, including the national security advisor and the press secretary.

Whether General Kelly can survive at least three-and-a-half years, to the end of this Trump administration, is questionable. He undoubtedly has the stamina to withstand stress and difficult issues and difficult individuals.

Only time will tell if the high moral standards which have followed him throughout his career will be sufficient if he is confronted with questionable ethical problems within the halls and offices of the White House.

The disarray which has characterized the last six months of the current administration is not a condition with which Marine commanders typically deal with lightly.

Battles are not won when disarray prevails, and one can hope the career education of Kelly will be able to bring order and coexistence to the ranks of those serving the president.

It would certainly be a welcome change and one that would go a long way toward becalming obviously turbulent waters in the White House.

Prediction: General Kelly will not stay to the end of President Trump’s first term. He will find even he is not capable of imparting the required discipline.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at