In a sea of stories now swirling about Donald Trump's new chief of staff and former Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, this paragraph about him and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis from an AP report stands apart.
Mattis and Kelly also agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump’s presidency that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the administration’s internal dynamics.
Immediately after Donald Trump got elected, we were faced with a question, "Who could save us?" As Trump filled out his cabinet, it became clear that we might actually be dependent on a triumvirate of military men—Sec. Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and then-Sec. Kelly—to do the job. So far, none of them have succeeded in curbing Trump's eccentric incompetence enough to offer a coherent foreign policy.
But what of a more basic question: Can they protect the nation itself from destruction at the hands of Trump? The only one who appears to have not compromised his integrity in service of Trump so far is Mattis. He has not kowtowed to Trump, for instance, at moments like the "Dear Leader" cabinet meeting where everyone followed the lead of now-ousted chief of staff Reince Priebus in thanking Trump for the "blessing" of serving him and his agenda.
McMaster, on the other hand, has consistently defended the indefensible, like when he described Trump fumbling high-level intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office as "wholly appropriate" or he claimed that Trump actually reaffirmed our Article 5 commitment to NATO on a trip abroad when he didn't.
For his part, Kelly has presided over an indefensible escalation of deportations that has preyed on the defenseless, separated families, and left American kids parentless. Kelly’s record as Trump's most efficient enforcer leaves little hope that he might save the country from anything as chief of staff, assuming he can even exist for any period of time in the maelstrom of Trump's White House.
But we now know Kelly is directly managing a guy that he didn't think should be left unsupervised lest he literally bring doom to the country. Frightening.