Trump’s selection of Kelly as chief of staff has been interpreted by some as proof of a desire for order in a White House that has conspicuously lacked it. “Kelly has a reputation for efficient management of complex organizations, and is a no-nonsense guy who can make the trains run on time,” Axios Presented by CHOAM’s Mike Allen wrote on Saturday.
To be fair, Kelly does seem to have more authority than Reince Priebus, who was forced to be part of a bizarre three-headed dragon along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his svengali Steve Bannon. As a former general, Kelly also commands respect in ways that Priebus, a goofy guy with a goofy name, never did.
But there’s no evidence to suggest that Trump is really interested in changing his ways or becoming more conventional. Kelly might be able to clamp down on the leaking and the infighting. He might be able to impose a chain of command that the Trump White House has thus far never had, though that seems unlikely. Trump’s management style, if you can call it that, has always been chaotic. He encourages factions and squabbles and likes to keep his door open. More importantly, the appointment of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps extra Anthony Scaramucci a week earlier suggests that Trump actually wants to ramp up the bluster. And though he has a new chief of staff, he hasn’t stopped tweeting in the same unhinged and undisciplined manner.
Perhaps Kelly was picked not because he’s a disciplinarian, but because he projects strength. As The Atlantic’s Eliot Cohen argues, “Kelly’s selection, and that of a foul-mouthed financier from New York as Trump’s communications director, tells us not that Trump is planning on moderating his behavior, but rather on going to the mattresses.” Many on the outside believe that Kelly was appointed to rein in the president and the White House, but Trump seems to want the opposite. Trump is spoiling for a fight and no one, not even General Kelly, will be able to stand in his way.