New White House Chief Of Staff Is Up To The Task

Posted on Wed 08/02/2017 by


By Steven Bucci ~

Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is now the new White House chief of staff.

Known as the gatekeeper to the president, the chief of staff is a powerful but often thankless job. If the president does not have a good chief of staff, the entire administration’s agenda is at risk, as is the ultimate well-being of the nation.

Many pundits are asking, “Yes, John Kelly was a great Marine, but is he up to this very political task?”

The answer is quite simply, “Yes.”

President Donald Trump selected John Kelly to serve as White House chief of staff after serving six months as secretary of homeland security. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters /Newscom)

Having known Kelly since the mid-1990s, I have seen him operate in a variety of circumstances. He has led troops in both combat and in peacetime engagement missions.

I watched him operate as a less senior officer in the complex and very political atmosphere in the Pentagon post-9/11. His last job in uniform, he was the combatant commander for U.S. Southern Command.

This post deals with a witches’ brew of drugs, insurgencies, and leftward sliding, semi-failed states, which are some of our most important friends as well as very prickly adversaries.

It is a consummately political responsibility that depends far more on the commander’s wit and will than on American military prowess.

Throughout all of this, Kelly has proven to be always steady, always professional, and utterly unafraid to speak up in principled dissent.

He never whines and is always ready to give advice, or to suggest a different, legitimate way to accomplish his boss’ intent. He never compromises his integrity and is fully focused on what is best for the United States of America.

As secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, he applied the same leadership and organizational skills to the huge set of physical problems confronting America at home.

Kelly proved to be innovative, smart, and unfazed by politically generated turmoil, spin, or the “prevailing winds,” as defined by the same pundits who are now questioning his abilities.

All those who are associated with the Department of Homeland Security—those inside the agency and those of us who are very interested outside observers—are intensely sorry to see him depart. He was providing exactly the kind of leadership and direction the department so badly needed for so long.

Homeland Security was on its way to exactly the level of organizational health and professional focus that it must reach in order to do the job it is called to do. Morale was up, productivity was soaring—in short, Kelly will be missed.

But when a warrior is asked to put down one task and pick up another, unless there is a darned good reason to say no, that warrior salutes and gets to it. Kelly is nothing if not the consummate warrior.

Kelly will take all these skills, attributes, and experiences with him to the White House. There, he will work to bring a new level of steadiness to what appears from the outside to be a turbulent ship. Make no mistake, he can do it.

Military leaders are seldom as one-dimensional as the movies like to portray them. Kelly is tough, and can be unyielding when it is called for, but he is no Neanderthal. He is smart, and nuanced in his abilities to influence and motivate.

He is also a brilliant organizer who can multitask with the best in Washington (and much better than most).

Kelly is also decidedly not a dilettante or a hand-wringer. He will size up the situation and begin assigning tasks. He will have high expectations concerning how these tasks are carried out, and he will not brook any freelancing with regard to organization or process.

If anyone is “uncomfortable” with any of his methodologies, he’ll give them a fair listen, then, like Solomon, decide the course forward. At that point, the choice will be to comply or depart—and I don’t mean for Kelly.

There will be no rancor, no flash, no grandstanding, just a whole lot of getting the job done.

Sounds just perfect to me.

Steven P. Bucci contributes Posts at The Daily Signal. He served America for three decades as an Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official, and he is a visiting research fellow at  The Heritage Foundation .

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