Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
The White House Chief of Staff (COS) is traditionally the highest ranking person in the White House. Their duties include staffing the West Wing, structuring the staff, controlling the flow of people into the Oval Office and in general protecting the interests of the president. They traditionally help the president negotiate with Congress. Most often the COS is the president’s closest advisor. On Friday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus was replaced by President Trump with Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly. The average tenure of a COS is just eighteen months. Preibus, the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, served as Trump’s COS for six months. Four observations:
First, Reince Preibus is an honorable man. He did an outstanding job leading the RNC and ran a fair primary system that Trump won, in spite of his complaining the system was rigged. Preibus raised the money and led the RNC to build campaign infrastructure- called 24/7/365- in swing states that helped Trump prevail in the general election. Preibus’ importance to Trump’s victory in November can’t be overstated. For that reason alone, he didn’t deserve the personal insults and attacks that Anthony Scaramucci leveled against him last week. To his credit Reince never publically criticized the president or got in the mud with Scaramucci.
Second, Preibus was given the COS job to help Trump get his agenda through Congress. That is where he failed. Because Reince is close friends with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the president expected him to capitalize on that relationship and others he has with members of Congress and help move Trump’s agenda through Congress. That didn’t happen, for a variety of reasons, and none of them Reince Preibus’ fault. He had the relationships and is well respected on the Hill, but the fundamental problem is the inability of the GOP caucus to stick together and the ability of the Democrats to stick together. That is what has created this crazy do-nothing dynamic. It is critical the president find someone to replace Preibus that will ‘hawk his message’ on the Hill and that person isn’t Kelly.
Third, Trump is not looking for a traditional Chief of Staff. Many advisors have his ear, including two family members. Trump’s COS has the unenviable task of trying to maintain conventional order in an unconventional environment. This president doesn’t sit down with key advisors and ask for counsel before he tweets. He fires the gun and then aims, expecting his staff to provide proof texts for his tweets.
Fourth, Trump prefers authoritative leaders and John Kelly fits that bill. He is 67 and a retired 40 year Marine 4 star general. His first request of the president was to ask for him to fire Anthony Scaramucci, who had the Communications Director’s job for eleven days. It appears Kelly has Trump’s ear- something that Preibus had lost.
With the turnover in the White House the last couple of weeks, it reminds you on an episode of Trump on The Apprentice, where he concluded every show with, "You're Fired!"