Tags: Donald Trump | gen. john kelly | chief of staff | trump

Gen. John Kelly Hangs Tough

Image: Gen. John Kelly Hangs Tough
Chief of Staff John Kelly at the White House daily briefing, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.  (AP/Susan Walsh)

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Friday, 13 Oct 2017 12:35 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Things went well for White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly in his unique briefing of the White House press corps Thursday afternoon, concluded historian and author Chris Whipple.

But in praising Kelly’s performance as one that showed “a cool customer with his wits about him,” Whipple nonetheless said that the retired U.S. Marine Corps general has yet to demonstrate he can perform the most important duty a White House chief of staff can perform: “tell the President what he doesn’t want to hear.”

“James Baker [chief of staff to Ronald Reagan] and Leon Panetta [Bill Clinton’s chief of staff] are the gold standard for the job,” Whipple told me. “They not only administered the West Wing well but told their presidents things they didn’t want to hear — and their presidents were both very successful.”

Whipple pointed out that Panetta helped Clinton work with members of Congress of both parties and this led to the successful bipartisan budget agreement of 1996.

“And where Reagan wanted to reform Social Security almost immediately after taking office,” added Whipple, “Baker convinced him this was the ‘third rail’ of politics that he should do tax cuts instead. He did, and they were enacted.”

“Both Reagan and Clinton would have had difficulty being re-elected,” insisted Whipple, “without the chiefs of staff they had in their first terms. That’s how important the job is.”

As to how close Kelly is to being able to bring ‘hard truths” to Trump, the historian is uncertain. "Trump went off-script with his remarks in Charlottesville [after the clash between white supremacists and protestors],” he said, “and we saw the famous picture of Kelly staring down at his shoes. Then we heard ‘Rocket Man’ [Trump’s nickname for Kim Jong Un] in Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly. How did that get in there?”

“Gen. Kelly has got the West Wing in order and he’s gotten the ‘fringe’ pretty much cleared out — Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka, so the good news is that everyone there is saluting Kelly. The bad news is that, for now at least, Kelly is saluting Trump.”

Whipple is the author of the critically acclaimed book “The Gatekeepers” about the 17 modern White House Chiefs of Staff (since H.R. Haldeman, Richard Nixon’s chief of staff from 1969-73).

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Things went well for White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly in his unique briefing of the White House press corps Thursday afternoon, concluded historian and author Chris Whipple.
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Friday, 13 Oct 2017 12:35 PM
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