Interesting article in The Atlantic speculates about why John Kelly, a man as diametrically opposite to Donald Trump as one can imagine (and they spell it out in the article), has taken the job of bringing order out of chaos in the West Wing.
Trump did say he was going to get all the “best generals,” didn’t he?
General Kelly may come up against the problem my father faced after he was forced, for medical reasons, to retire from the Air Force after 20 years at the very young age of 38. He never adjusted to the civilian workplace, as it see it, mainly because civilians don’t have to take orders. Trump in particular does not like being told what to do. Even for his own good.
Agreed. Among all of his other questionable qualities, I believe Trump really really wants a war, probably with North Korea. From his own personal history of growing up with a stern commanding father, and his own time spent in a military school, and his comfort with being “the boss”, it seems to me he has an affinity for the military ethos of command structures.
Whereas, being President, others have spoken of being humbled by the job, that it’s an honor to serve, understanding that they work for the American people, etc. I feel these concepts are completely lost on Trump.
As a child, did he enjoy train wrecks? Does he enjoy Stephen King novels? My best guess is that he thinks the White House needs adult supervision, and he can’t abide the thought of there not being someone of sound mind and body to bring a note of sanity or call in for backup if need be.
From your linked article, it appears he is not personally repulsed by Trump, and may even share many of his deplorable sentiments. Once one is past that hurdle, why wouldn’t one accept the job? Being called upon by the Commander in Chief to take on a new challenge, being close to the seat of power and leader of the free world, the challenge of accomplishing something meaningful, y’know - the usual. (Besides, it’s a paycheck. Generals don’t get rich being Generals.)
I know some people won’t agree with this assessment, but I do truly get the sense that there is a code of military honor that Gen. Kelly deeply believes in, and I think it’s what drives men & women in uniform to defend people and behavior even when it might put their professional and personal reputations at risk. I think this is true of McMasters, Mattis, and Kelly. I think it also explains how Gen. Colin Powell went and tried to sell a war that he really didn’t believe in before the United Nations Security Council. It’s bizarre and even unethical in the eyes of most civilians, but even if many here reading this haven’t served in the military, we’ve met people who have and know that they serve their country and comrades and try to keep their personal thoughts out of it. It seems that this kind of patriotic stoicism intensifies the higher up the chain of command we go.
That said, I’m not a blind devotee of the military. It is the ultimate lever of power in any government. In the hands of responsible democratic government, military power defends democracy from external and even internal threats to a people’s way of life. In the wrong hands and when pitted against weak civilian leadership, however, military power can become jealous of and compete with civilian power.
Trump is ostensibly authoritarian and yet he might ultimately prove to be too utterly incompetent to make good on those impulses. But even if he fails, there is exists the very real danger that he may have already cleared a large swath of the forest for future dictators to use as their footpath toward achieving totalitarianism. I particularly agree with Cohen’s concern about the right wing’s perceived need for increased intimacy between civilian and military leadership.
But it did turn out well, didn’t it? Aren’t you really thankful for the job he did as Chief of Staff? I certainly am.
I think that you aren’t supportive of military or ex-military in the President’s inner circle, but I can’t really figure out why, or rather I don’t think you’ve made a convincing case.
Lot’s of people in the military are liberal for example. And I don’t know anyone in the military that believe that civilian control of the military is a bad thing.
Four stars do have experience in pressure situations, dealing with type “A” personalities, and have the ability to manage and lead at the highest level of the military. Are you willing to share with me why having that expertise working for us in the oval office is a bad thing?
I can understand Trump’s motivations for asking Kelly to be WH CoS. But I can’t for the life of me understand why Kelly agreed to take the job. As a general, he had full command of DHS and was seemingly doing a good job while being well respected. As WH CoS, he will not have disciplined staff who support the chain of command. Especially not among those who are related to the Orange Menace. I also doubt very much that he’ll be able to have significant long term influence over the Orange Menace with respect to instilling discipline and restraint.
My best guess is that hubris is the chief reason Kelly took the job. He thinks he can do what others have failed to do. I suspect he’ll be frustrated by reality of having seized a bull by the tail. Sooner or later, even the general will find himself on the business end of the bull and end up being gored and trampled.
I would agree that there’s definitely ego involved, but that’s probably true of any person who’s held a senior level leadership position in government. The military is an extremely political institution and those who make it to the top don’t get there by playing flag football; they learned to tackle along the way. And I would imagine anyone who makes it to a position of power in Washington has to have a healthy (and at times unhealthy) belief in their own abilities to get things done.
“Am I willing to share” with you? What an odd way of putting it. Of course, I’m *willing *to share. I never said it was a bad thing. I don’t have any hidden motives or agenda here. I’m just asking myself why Kelly would want to jump into this clusterfuck, that’s all, as it is surely a doomed mission. Not doomed for him, because I don’t think he will do anything, even if asked or *ordered *to, that will tarnish his reputation. I mean doomed to failure.
Following up on asahi, I think Kelly has been watching this train wreck like the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us, he’s in a position to do something about it-- or at least to try-- and I say more power to him. I don’t think he will be able to control Trump, and if he appears to be running things, Trump will kick him to the back burner like he did Bannon. I imagine Trump would get a huge adrenaline rush from shouting “YOU’RE FIRED!” to a four-star general.
I don’t know if anyone in the military I’d consider ‘liberal’ - centrist or moderate and open to some progressive ideas maybe, but not fruitcake liberal. Most senior level military leadership are realists and living in a world of facts, because lives hang in the balance and they don’t have the luxury of making decisions based on feelings.
We’re fortunate in that there are institutions in place that have long respected the rule of law, the constitution, and subordinating the military to civilian democratic authority. This has been the American experience, but other democracies have fallen into the hands of military misrule. If you look at a majority of the noteworthy authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, there’s usually someone with military expertise and experience behind it.
There are exceptions: Recep Erdogan of Turkey was largely a political figure and not a military one. Maduro of Venezuela is a political figure, too, but his predecessor Hugo Chavez, who laid the foundation of authoritarianism, was a military populist. Democracies are wise to be nervous about outsourcing civilian leadership to military commanders and those with strong military ties. This is especially true at a time when more and more people are frankly losing confidence in our own democracy’s ability to provide for the common interest.
Why do you think there is a negative reason for him taking the job?
He devoted over 46 years of his life to the Marine Corps. Isn’t there are chance that he just believes in public service? The President asked him to serve his administration and the country and he felt compelled to be of service?
From where I sit this administration needs adult supervision. I just finished “The Gatekeepers” on Presidential Chiefs of Staff and I was surprised how many administrations got off the wrong foot and needed a stronger CoS. (Nothing like this of course.) So I’m hoping that a strong leader wants to serve the President and the people of the US and help. I’m wishing him the best.
I don’t think hubris is necessarily a negative reason, at least not at the outset. The bad part comes at the end when the person has TOO much unjustified confidence and makes the gods mad (mythologically speaking). To take a job like this while understanding the gigantic mess you are being asked to straighten out, and serve under the authority of a ignorant, narcissistic, petulant bully without a scrap of loyalty except to blood takes an extreme amount of confidence in one’s abilities. AND a belief in public service, too. IF you feel you are up to the job, and you believe you can succeed where other not-so-qualified people have failed, naturally, you would accept the challenge.
He’s been in public service most of his adult life and he continued to serve as head of DHS - a very highly regarded position in the public sector. Why do you think he felt the need to go from a well established organization like the DHS to a chaotic environment like the WH as CoS?
Perhaps he feels like that’s where he’d do the most good. But I think he simply can’t resist a challenge and thinks he can bring order to chaos. Perhaps he can. But it doesn’t seem like he is doing this because he has respect for the current administration. After all, he (reportedly) threatened to quit over the firing of James Comey.
IME the military is pretty well split at all levels. Remember that there’s a lot of progressive things about being in the military – a long history of equal treatment based on race and gender, generally ahead of society at large, universal healthcare, equal pay (within rank) regardless of your job, guaranteed housing, socialized businesses on every base (commissary, px, class 6, gas stations, bowling alleys, golf courses, movie theaters, etc). In a lot of ways every base is like a little progressive commune.
I don’t know Kelly or what drives him. But it’s not difficult to imagine that a high ranking 46 year veteran of the military would love nothing better than the opportunity to rub the president’s nose in the mess he’s created. I know that would be a compelling motive for me if I were in Kelly’s spit shined shoes - so perhaps I’m simply projecting. It’s still hubris to think that will go well or end in success.