The Media Today

The media today: The John Kelly narrative takes hold

August 3, 2017

Throughout Donald Trump’s sui generis political rise, the mainstream media has grasped for an oft-predicted, but as yet unrealized trope: the Trump “pivot.” The latest instance comes via the reaction to new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Kelly enters the job with a reputation as a no-nonsense military man, and he’s been cast as the person who may have what it takes to rein in President Trump’s excesses and bring order to a chaotic West Wing.

Named chief of staff less than a week ago, Kelly’s impact is already apparent. Combative Communications Chief Anthony Scaramucci got the boot, and previously “unfireable” National Security Council staffer Ezra Cohen-Watnick has, indeed, been fired. Democratic leadership is being wooed, and Oval Office doors are being shut. Axios reports that even Trump is trying to impress, “picking up his game by acting sharper in meetings and even rattling off stats.”

The urge to depict Kelly as the adult in the room is understandable. A former four-star general who rose from the ranks of enlisted Marine to the heights of power, he brings gravity to a role occupied, until now, by Reince Priebus, a wallflower seemingly unable or unwilling to instill any traditional semblance of order.

The trends described in early coverage of Kelly may well continue. He may be up to the task of professionalizing the administration. More fringe figures may be escorted off White House grounds. The president may continue to temper his Twitter tirades, as he has since Kelly was sworn in (breaking only to pick a fight over an article about his golfing). But expecting Trump to change in any fundamental way has been a fool’s errand for more than two years. Before we rush to affirm the Kelly-as-savior narrative, it’s worth remembering how many other versions of the Trump pivot we’ve discarded.

Below, more on the new chief of staff.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.