Can Kelly do any bet­ter as chief of staff?

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­

Given that Reince Priebus was the weak­est chief of staff since Mack McLarty, Bill Clin­ton’s child­hood friend, that the White House was a den of in­fight­ing, that Pres­i­dent Trump’s agenda has stalled, that the pres­i­dent on a daily ba­sis dis­rupts his mes­sage and the ex­ec­u­tive branch more gen­er­ally, the shift from mousy Priebus to no-non­sense for­mer gen­eral John F. Kelly may give Amer­i­cans hope that the chaos will sub­side. I’m not sure there are grounds for op­ti­mism.

One won­ders what un­der­stand­ings were ham­mered out be­fore Kelly took the job. Did he get full con­trol of all White House staff? Was Kelly given any re­as­sur­ance that the pres­i­dent would not try to fire spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III with­out giv­ing him a chance to weigh in? We don’t know, but Kelly, along with De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis, has the grav­i­tas and lever­age to threaten to re­sign if Trump re­ally goes off the rails. Be­cause Kelly re­port­edly has a good re­la­tion­ship with chief White House strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non and the Trump chil­dren, per­haps he can clamp down on the staff wars. A num­ber of ques­tions re­main.

Can Kelly, who lacks po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and has clashed with con­gres­sional over­sight com­mit­tees, nav­i­gate a func­tional re­la­tion­ship with Repub­li­can House and Se­nate lead­ers?

Will Kelly in­sist on a stan­dard of forthright­ness and hon­esty hereto­fore ab­sent in the White House, or will the non­stop lies, spin and stonewalling con­tinue?

Can Kelly muz­zle new Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor An­thony Scara­mucci, whose New Yorker in­ter­view this week marked a new low in White House deco­rum?

Can Kelly, who has obe­di­ently car­ried out Trump’s ag­gres­sive, in­hu­mane and con­sti­tu­tion­ally sus­pect or­ders as head of the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, tell Trump when he is wrong — and get the pres­i­dent to fol­low his ad­vice?

The over­ar­ch­ing prob­lem is the de­gree to which the pres­i­dent has lost his emo­tional sta­bil­ity (or what re­mained of it) and be­come di­vorced from real­ity. We’ve seen the pres­i­dent, in essence, melt down re­peat­edly over the past cou­ple of weeks. To be blunt, Kelly’s hard­est task will be to steady the pres­i­dent and pre­vent his emo­tional and po­lit­i­cal self-de­struc­tion. It’s not clear any­one can do this.

Fi­nally, Kelly’s de­par­ture opens up the job of home­land se­cu­rity sec­re­tary. The Se­nate has an obli­ga­tion to care­fully vet Kelly’s suc­ces­sor, de­ter­mine his or her in­ten­tions for the par­tially halted travel ban, im­mi­gra­tion dream­ers and more. It’s long past the point at which the GOP should cease rub­ber-stamp­ing nominees.

Kelly brings per­sonal dis­ci­pline to the White House, but it is far from clear he can im­pose dis­ci­pline on Trump. With Trump­care’s fail­ure, the tantrums about At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and the tweeted ban on trans­gen­der peo­ple in the mil­i­tary, this has been the worst week of the Trump pres­i­dency. At least un­der Kelly, there is op­por­tu­nity for vast im­prove­ment — even if just to some sem­blance of nor­malcy. Kelly’s se­lec­tion is a vivid ad­mis­sion that this pres­i­dency is fail­ing. We will see whether the dam­age is re­versible.

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