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.
- Cracking down on bad info: Politico’s Josh Dawsey reports that Kelly is intent on making sure all information the president gets flows through the chief of staff. Gone, apparently, are the days of Trump being fed articles from questionable sources that lead to rash tweets.
- Bringing order to the chaos: Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein lists the ways we’ll know if Kelly is really in charge.
- “Washington’s most powerful person”: Vanity Fair’s T.A. Frank asks: Will John Kelly save Trump’s soul?
- Warring factions: The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren reports that the Kelly era may have intensified the battle between Steve Bannon and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
Other notable stories
- Important story from the Associated Press’s Hannah Dreier, who looks back at her time in Venezuela as a witness to “the country’s accelerating descent into a humanitarian catastrophe.”
- CJR is partnering with the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and other advocacy groups to track press freedom incidents around the country. Jonathan Peters has an overview of the collaboration.
- Fallout from the spurious Seth Rich conspiracy continues. New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi examines how close the White House was to the story, while CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports that there is confusion and anger at Fox News over a lack of accountability.
- Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter has an excellent piece on the complicated life and death of former Yankees star Hideki Irabu.
- Nice profile by CJR’s Meg Dalton of longtime San Francisco Chronicle science writer David Perlman, who’s retiring at the age of 98. Perlman started reporting before the space race, and has covered everything from developments in our understanding of evolution to the AIDS epidemic to the dangers of climate change.