Why Trump’s new chief of staff will fail, too

He is in­ex­pe­ri­enced in most of the un­for­giv­ing ways of Washington

African Independent - - NEWS - AL­BERT R HUNT

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.

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