The right choice for many rea­sons John Kelly will bring bal­ance and steadi­ness to the White House

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Robert Charles

Amer­i­cans like their president to be an earthy fighter; they also like pre­dictabil­ity and dig­nity. Find­ing the bal­ance can be dif­fi­cult. A di­vided White House does not help. That is why ap­point­ing Gen. John Kelly White House Chief of Staff is so wel­come.

First, no Amer­i­can gen­eral alive to­day has given more to the na­tion through an ex­tended mil­i­tary ca­reer, ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship in mul­ti­ple ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity, in com­bat and peace­time, wrestling state and non-state ter­ror­ists, bom­bas­tic bel­liger­ents to drug traf­fick­ers. And with a son at Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery, Mr. Kelly’s fam­ily is all about Amer­ica.

Ev­ery sin­gle mil­i­tary and civil­ian staff mem­ber in the White House knows his story — and should re­spect him. What­ever his lead­er­ship style, pol­icy po­si­tions, or or­ga­ni­za­tional pri­or­i­ties, he will be fiercely loyal, fair to a fault and ef­fec­tive. In all like­li­hood, White House leaks will stop, in­ves­ti­ga­tions not­with­stand­ing. Unity will fi­nally emerge.

If past is pre­lude, Mr. Kelly’s mil­i­tary and Home­land Security lead­er­ship demon­strates he is hon­est, hum­ble, knows his mind, as­signs mis­sions as­sid­u­ously, em­pow­ers peo­ple, ex­pects ex­e­cu­tion, will not mi­cro­man­age, ex­pects trust to be honored, takes re­spon­si­bil­ity and will not suf­fer fools.

Sec­ond, the president re­spects and ad­mires Mr. Kelly, sug­gest­ing po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant op­er­a­tional change. As di­vi­sions among White House staff set­tle — and they will — his guid­ance may trig­ger wider moves.

Among op­er­a­tional shifts, ex­pect greater or­der in all el­e­ments of White House man­age­ment, closer at­ten­tion to Congress and Cabi­net af­fairs, bet­ter in­te­gra­tion of domestic and in­ter­na­tional strate­gies, grad­ual el­e­va­tion of Cabi­net au­thor­ity, and ac­cel­er­a­tion of ap­point­ments across gov­ern­ment.

Since Cabi­net mem­bers re­spect Mr. Kelly, and he was drawn from their ranks, he is likely to be a strong, proac­tive in­ter­me­di­ary. He is un­likely to get spun up. He will hear all voices, but give no quar­ter to in­ternecine bat­tles.

Mr. Kelly’s rec­om­men­da­tions come from a deep well, a place few have been, places few would want to go. Ac­cord­ingly, they carry great weight. Not a seer, he is sea­soned be­yond any re­cent chief of staff. He comes with lit­tle ego, another gift.

Fi­nally, Mr. Kelly may be able to help President Trump re­store bal­ance be­tween “earthy fighter” and re­as­sur­ing “pre­dictabil­ity and dig­nity.” That bal­ance is in­nate in high-rank­ing com­bat of­fi­cers.

Mr. Trump’s habit of re­flex­ive tweet­ing is not the core prob­lem. The prob­lem is how the president uses this tech­nol­ogy. A president should be us­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy to com­mu­ni­cate with the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

In May 1862, President Lin­coln dis­cov­ered value in the tele­graph — al­ready around 17 years, five more than Twit­ter to­day. Lin­coln con­verted that nov­elty to a com­mu­ni­ca­tions sword, turn­ing the “tele­graph room” into a “sit­u­a­tion room.”

In De­cem­ber 1923, Calvin Coolidge was the first president to use ra­dio. Franklin Roo­sevelt per­fected po­lit­i­cal ra­dio with “fire­side chats,” pi­o­neer­ing tele­vi­sion in 1939.

Harry Tru­man gave the first tele­vised speech in 1947, but Ron­ald Rea­gan was the master, cheer­fully us­ing ra­dio and tele­vi­sion to go over na­tional me­dia and win vot­ers to his side, pre­sag­ing Mr. Trump’s pi­o­neer­ing use of Twit­ter.

Mr. Kelly may, with luck, help the president to per­fect how he tweets. Cur­rently, the nee­dle is hard to “earthy fighter,” and hard away from “pre­dictabil­ity and dig­nity.” For a time, in re­ac­tion to stark events, that is fine. But over time, the na­tion craves — and Mr. Rea­gan gave them — both “pre­dictabil­ity and dig­nity,” the sense of a “steady hand is on the wheel.”

If any­one can help Mr. Trump con­vey that mes­sage ef­fec­tively, build­ing on his can-do at­ti­tude, the vice president’s well-re­ceived de­meanor and Cabi­net acu­men, it is Mr. Kelly. The way to get there is not hard, no harder than dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween per­sonal and pro­fes­sional, pri­vate and pub­lic, un­of­fi­cial and of­fi­cial com­ment, keep­ing au­then­tic­ity while get­ting the tweet-me­ter closer to the mid­dle, rather than hard-over to “earthy fighter,” a bit more “pre­dictabil­ity and dig­nity.”

Truth is that Lin­coln, and all pres­i­dents since ex­ploited new tech­nol­ogy. Mr. Trump is ahead of his time, not be­hind it. Mr. Kelly may be able — with his unique life ex­pe­ri­ence — to help the president har­ness this tech­nol­ogy for bet­ter bat­tle­field ad­van­tage, us­ing bet­ter tar­get­ing, in­spired mes­sag­ing, build­ing con­fi­dence and pre­dictabil­ity through tweets.

One way or the other, Mr. Kelly is a bril­liant choice for White House chief of staff. If Amer­ica was look­ing for the next chap­ter, some­one who can set the right tone, find the right bal­ance, end a flood of leaks, and unify the Trump White House staff, hard to see a bet­ter choice.

Mr. Kelly’s rec­om­men­da­tions come from a deep well, a place few have been, places few would want to go.

Robert Charles is a for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for in­ter­na­tional nar­cotics and law en­force­ment in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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