Why Trump’s new chief of staff will fail, too
He is inexperienced in most of the unforgiving ways of Washington
OLITICIANS and Washington talking heads are falling all over themselves to describe how the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, might bring some order to a chaotic, dysfunctional and failing presidency.
Wrong. He’s the wrong person for the wrong job for the wrong president. The more sanguine assessments, and contrasts to his hapless predecessor, Reince Priebus, will continue for weeks, maybe months. It won’t last.
Kelly, a retired general, lacks the prerequisite skills for this powerful post, which is the consummate political job, not a command-andcontrol managerial task. It requires keen political sensitivities about policy priorities, Congress, the administration and bureaucracy, the party, interest groups and the voters. And a president who wants to govern.
That has been well demonstrated over half a century by successful chiefs of staff: Republicans like the Baker boys, Jim and Howard under Ronald Reagan, or Josh Bolten under George W Bush; Democrats like
PLeon Panetta, John Podesta and Rahm Emanuel. And the failures have been unversed in the ways of Washington: Governor John Sununu under the first President Bush and Bill Clinton’s Mack McLarty, both of whom might have been fine Cabinet members, as well as Reagan’s Donald Regan.
Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, was a combatdecorated, four-star Marine Corps general much respected by his troops and peers.
While knowledgeable about the politics of the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, which he has headed for the past six months, he is inexperienced in most of the ways of Washington. That’s difficult to learn on the job.
His reputation as a straight shooter has suffered during his stint in the Trump administration. That might be why the president likes him. Many thought he would be a brake on Trump’s mean-spirited, anti-immigration views. He hasn’t been. “We had hope for General Kelly, but we have been deeply disappointed,” says Frank Sharry, a leading advocate for immigrants.
He charged the homeland security secretary “has done little more than front” for an assault on immigrants and has become “the pitchman for what only can be described as a mass deportation strategy.” And while many nationalsecurity experts were stunned when Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, privately tried to set up a secret communications system with the Russians, run out of Moscow, Kelly said it was “normal” and “acceptable.”
Trump, who didn’t serve in the military, is drawn to stars and what he sees as tough guys. He loves to call Defence Secretary James Mattis by his old nickname, “Mad Dog,” something the intellectual retired four-star Marine general doesn’t prefer.
This gets to the overarching issue: Trump, who revels in humiliating people. He hung Priebus out to dry and is doing that now with attorney-general Jeff Sessions. Before taking office, Trump led Mitt Romney to believe he might be secretary of state; the sole purpose was to make his former rival look as if he was begging for a job that never was to be. He did the same with retired Army General David Petraeus.
And last month, with the cameras rolling, the president forced his Cabinet to declare sycophantically what a great president he was, and how lucky they were to work for him. There will be a time when he humiliates Kelly because that’s what he does. Will the general pull a Priebus and just bow his head? Trump doesn’t want anyone to stop him from being Trump.
The last time a military commander was named chief of staff for a beleaguered president was Al Haig 44 years ago in the Nixon administration.
It didn’t take long to see that the problem was the emperor, not the clothes.
That’s true today.
Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal AUTHORITIES across India are taking steps to help millions of people hit by floods and to prepare for future disasters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, adding climate change and new weather patterns were having a “big negative impact”.
At least 130 people have died in western and north-eastern parts of India and millions of people have been affected by floods that have submerged villages, washed away crops, destroyed roads and disrupted power and phone lines.
Heavy monsoon rains have caused mighty rivers like the Brahmaputra and their tributaries to burst their banks forcing people into relief camps in states such as Gujarat, Assam, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
“Mother Nature gives us life and nurtures us, but at times natural catastrophes such as floods and earthquakes wreak havoc on a massive scale,” Modi said in his monthly radio address to the nation on Sunday.
“Climate change, altered weather cycles, and transformations in the environment, are also having a big negative impact.” India usually experiences monsoon rains from June to September, which are vital for its agriculture – making up 18 percent of its gross domestic product and providing employment for almost half of its 1.3 billion population.
But in many states across the country, the rains frequently cause rivers to overflow and flooding forces millions into temporary camps, devastates standing crops, destroys homes and exposes people to diseases such as diarrhoea.
The torrential rains this year have not only triggered landslides in hilly regions like Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, but have also flooded national parks, forcing wildlife, including the rare one-horned rhinoceros, to flee.
The fast-flowing waters have also breached embankments and eroded dykes in some areas, leaving some roads inaccessible, compounding efforts to rescue marooned villagers.
Rains have been 4 percent above average since the fourmonth monsoon season began in June.
Modi said relief efforts were being carried out on an “extensive scale” with camps set up for the displaced and search and rescue teams deployed.