The Channel Must Change: Why Trump’s New Chief of Staff Won’t Last Long

An army of one

Politics Features John Kelly
The Channel Must Change: Why Trump’s New Chief of Staff Won’t Last Long

“Long live the new flesh” — Videodrome

The worst job in the world has a new occupant. John Kelly was just inducted in as our President’s new Chief of Staff. The swearing-in was accomplished with all the verve we’ve come to expect from the run-up to the Apocalypse. If Trump has not yet driven George Will to an early grave, he will. Listen to what our friends at the Los Angeles Times say:

President Trump swore in his new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, on Monday morning, formalizing a shake-up in his top ranks that was announced Friday evening with word of the resignation of Reince Priebus. “We look forward to – if it’s possible – an even better job as chief of staff,” Trump said to Kelly, formerly the secretary of homeland security. “I’ll try, sir,” Kelly replied. Trump is hoping that Kelly, a retired general, will retool and bring order to a White House that has struggled with low poll numbers, staff infighting, a faltering legislative agenda and an investigation into Russian election meddling and potential collusion and obstruction of justice.

“I’ll try, sir.” He will most certainly do that—try. There has been no shortage of trying, and it has been just tire fire upon tire fire since January. Remember the episode of The Simpsons where they decide “Itchy & Scratchy” isn’t retaining its customary water-weight, and so the bigwigs decide to bring on down a totally radical friend?

Network Executive Lady: We at the network want a dog with attitude. He’s edgy, he’s “in your face.” You’ve heard the expression, “let’s get busy”? Well, this is a dog who gets “biz-zay!” Consistently and thoroughly.
Krusty: So he’s proactive, huh?
Network Executive Lady: Oh, God, yes. We’re talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.
George Meyer: Excuse me, but “proactive” and “paradigm”? Aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I’m accusing you of anything like that. [pause] I’m fired, aren’t I?
Roger Myers Jr.: Oh, yes.

John Kelly’s journey into the ash-strewn bowels of hell is like Poochie’s … but on fire. He’s totally fresh and radical and in your face, he will bring new life to this gangrene ridden monster corpse, he will be the toast of the Beltway, and, oh yes, he will be out on the street in a couple of months—a few nanoclicks in the geological scale, but lightning-quick as politics reckons time. Trump and his team will no doubt repeat, with KISS-fan intensity, that Kelly is the innovative hip hotness. But you can only jump the governmental shark so many times. Kelly’s reign will be a college sophomore’s first novel: six months of trying.

You and I both know how companies sell the same old shame under new management. “This time it will be different,” they say. It is the same language used by a desperate party host who knows he is serving his guests mouthwash instead of the promised tequila. This time, we are told, Kelly will be the bro to un-bro the White House. And to be sure, he has probably read more books than Trump, and likely has a working understanding of how the government and the human body functions—again, unlike Trump.

Furthermore, Kelly is a general, and Trump is impressed by generals. You can tell because he calls them “my generals,” like some medieval king with a turkey leg. He views the military just like he views his daughter’s visual appeal: as an extension of his own body. Which is a totally normal habit practiced by most grounded, earth-bound patriarchs. Nothing to see here, folks. It makes perfect sense Trump loves military folk. He’s going to do to General Kelly what he did to Ivanka—that is, he will see the general’s virtues as his own. All of Kelly’s wars will become Trump’s wars. That’s how The Donald works. Other people’s hotels become his hotels because his name is slapped on them. Trump is exactly the kind of guy who wants to be tough—without the moral courage or resolution which is the only true foundation of toughness. Kelly makes sense.

And perhaps in a normal world, Kelly would be the one to fix the White House. But as I have been telling my reflection during the hours between dusk and dawn, this is not an ordinary planet.

Why does the golden Trump administration fail? They cut Flynn, and then Spicer, and Priebus, and then our dearly departed Mooch. Eventually, they will fire the children one by one. Even then, that will not cut out the problem. We all know what the problem is.

Trump can’t control himself. Kelly can’t control Trump. That’s all you need to know. With Kelly enrolled, there’s peace, but it’s a smile with a sword behind it. When the moment of conflict eventually arrives—when the President and his Chief of Staff come to blows—when the President wants to tweet out opinions about sandwiches or Muslims or network TV or an anchor’s sexual history—then Kelly will realize how little power he has. If he strives to corral Trump, he will be checked. If he doesn’t try to contain The Donald, he will be powerless, which is the worser fate in Washington.

Because the President’s front cortex can’t execute command decisions over the rest of his brain, John Kelly will be unable to undo Trump’s experience of spending too many years eating from Florida McDonalds’. If you have a blind and deaf man at the steering wheel of a car, the problem is not the other passengers the driver keeps picking up. It doesn’t matter how pleasant or adult the hitchhikers are. The man with the wheel decides when and where he will drive the car off the turnpike.

And so, the Trump-ministration continues its long night voyage away from influence and achievement. While Congress picks up the business of running the country, we will all continue to watch the Trump White House, which is just like Glee, but about buffoons instead of singers. Each week, a new theme. There will be a series of guest stars. Brief moments of characterization, each villain more unbelievable than the next. The administration doesn’t have appointments, it has fads. Our sweet Mooch was too good for this glass tank of carnivorous eels. The current White House program lasts as long as it takes the President to change the channel. The arc of the Trump universe is short, and bends towards incompetency.

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