Until last week, the White House chief of staff was Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Before we get to the new chief of staff, let’s quickly review a few things about Priebus. As RNC chair, back when Trump won the Ohio primary over Ted Cruz and John Kasich, right after Cruz pulled out, it was Priebus who publicly expressed the view that Kasich should also withdraw and accept Trump as the presumptive nominee. Back then, my feeling was that Priebus, the epitome of a “regular” Republican, could not possibly think Trump would make a desirable president. Then, during the general election campaign, it was Priebus who stormed into Trump’s campaign office and yelled at the team that they were effing this campaign up. (Trump had to be prodded into concentrating on battleground states; winning the election really didn’t seem like his top priority.) Then, after Trump took office, he made Priebus his chief of staff. I wondered what Priebus was really up to at the time, and it would not at all surprise me if Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, turned out to be right about Priebus being one of the leakers. I was thinking that too, from early on.
But now, back to the new chief of staff, General John Kelly. He has a tough job ahead of him, for a very basic reason. There is a huge White House bureaucracy called the Executive Office of the President (EOP), whose job it is to advise and assist the president, and the chief of staff is the gatekeeper between members of the various EOP offices and the president. Obviously, that means that the personnel of those offices must honor the protocol and not try to bypass the chief of staff to talk to the president, but it also means that the president is expected to honor the protocol too. And when there’s talk of Donald Trump honoring a protocol, isn’t that a little like asking the cat to make friends with the mouse, and gently lick the mouse’s fur and share the food dish with it?
Speaking of Scaramucci, I’m not going to post a link to the New Yorker interview he did last week, where he uttered some incredible profanities, but I’ll say this: if I were the White House chief of staff, I would not want there to be people in such positions who had no better self-restraint than that. Then again, if I were the White House chief of staff, I’d want my top boss to have better self-restraint than Kelly’s boss has, so I doubt the White House is going to be any less chaotic now.
Yahoo News article, July 31, 2017
NPR interview with a former presidential assistant from the Bush years, July 31, 2017 (valuable for insights on what a chief of staff does when things are normal)
Politico article on Priebus’s rise and fall, July 28, 2017
UPDATE: Bye bye Scaramucci. Politico article, July 31, 2017 To me, what’s noteworthy is that Trump needed to be told by his new chief of staff that Scaramucci had to go; the fact that he had used the vulgar language that he did in that New Yorker interview last week wasn’t reason enough for our president. Then again, Trump is on record as saying that he has no problem with “locker room talk.”