It was the hanging head seen round the world. While Donald Trump was giving a speech last week defending white supremacists, his new White House Chief of Staff, General John F. Kelly, was seen standing to the side and staring at his feet and looking forlorn. The implication was clear: Kelly was embarrassed to be there, and was questioning his choice to join Trump’s staff. When Trump gave an arguably even more offensive speech in Phoenix, Kelly was once again humiliated by it.
Trump’s Phoenix speech saw him purposely misquoting himself, lying time and again, re-litigating his failed response to Charlottesville, lying about crowd size, and launching some of his most inappropriate barbs at the media to date. Some of Trump’s administration members, including a usually hidden Ben Carson, took the stage to participate in the debacle. But at one point during Trump’s speech, he asked John Kelly to join him.
Trump said “Where is General Kelly? Get him out here.” But Kelly refused to join Trump on stage. Conservative journalist Bill Kristol was among those who picked up on Kelly’s uneasiness, tweeting “I notice John Kelly never showed up on stage despite being summoned by Trump” (link). And so now we’re looking at a situation where Trump’s new chief of staff has been embarrassed by two of Trump’s major speeches during his first few weeks on the job.
Donald Trump’s White House staff has been the most unstable and turnover-heavy of the modern era. Thus far Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, KT McFarland, Mike Dubke, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon and several others have already resigned or been reassigned or been fired from senior positions. It’s enough to raise the question of how much longer General Kelly will last. But then again, with many of these vacated positions having gone unfilled, if Kelly resigns, Trump will have virtually no senior advisers left.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report