On July 31, retired-Marine Corps General John Kelly took on a new role in the Trump administration as the White House Chief of Staff. In his six month tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security, Kelly had greatly impressed Trump. And when Trump tired of Reince Priebus and his conflicts with the likes of Stephen Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci, Kelly’s resumé was enough for appointment as the President’s new Chief of Staff.
Addressing the West Wing staff on his first day in his new role, Kelly informed them in simple terms what their priorities needed to be: “Country, President, Self.” This approach underscores what many outside observers are hoping for with Kelly: a no-nonsense former general who brings much needed discipline to a West Wing that has been wracked with incessant infighting and a destructive lack of organization.
In three weeks, Kelly has made great bounds towards stabilizing a chaotic West Wing. In his first days, it was announced that Anthony Scaramucci would be leaving his role as White House Communications Director, a move that had Kelly’s fingerprints all over it. The decision to remove Scaramucci was seen as a move to combat the bickering and infighting that has marred Trump’s first six months in office, though it is too early to see if this will help normalize the White House Communications Office.
Kelly’s new role has also benefited another of Trump’s appointees: National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The centrist-leaning McMaster has been under fire from more right-wing elements within the Trump administration almost since day one, and has been working just as long to clean out elements he saw as undesirable from the National Security Council, a move which would solidify his position in the administration. Following Kelly’s elevation to Chief of Staff, he has supported McMaster in removing several Flynn appointees from the Council, opening the door for what will hopefully be a more productive National Security Council.
Once he cleaned out the White House Communications program and the National Security Council, only one obvious loose end was left for Kelly to tie up. Since the moment he joined the Trump campaign in August 2016, Stephen Bannon has been a lightning rod for criticism of the Trump camp, one which was only increased further by Bannon’s role as chief strategist in the West Wing. Bannon proved to be a problematic member of the staff, battling with centrists such as McMaster and members of the establishment such as Priebus. Kelly’s appointment quickly brought into question Bannon’s longevity, and following a series of unauthorized and very candid interviews by Bannon, that question was answered, with Bannon leaving the White House on August 18, 2017, and returning to his previous role as head of Breitbart.
Less than a month into his tenure, it is still to be seen if Chief of Staff Kelly will actually be able to stabilize the West Wing, and in doing so turn the Trump administration around. Ideally, this would help get the administration on track to make tangible legislative progress. However, if Kelly’s first three weeks are on the job are any indication of what to expect, the hammer is being dropped on the West Wing staff, and one can only hope that this is the beginning of a new chapter in the Trump Administration.
— Christopher Lipscomb is a sophomore studying international affairs and political science. He is a regular contributor to The Arch Conservative.