Discipline, in the form of John Kelly, may have come to President Trump’s White House. Kelly took over Monday as new Chief of Staff.
However, questions remain about how much discipline Kelly will be able to bring to the Trump White House. Moreover, military experience may not always translate to the political skills a White House chief of staff needs.
On the other hand, a good leader is able to delegate effectively. As a general and DHS Secretary, Kelly has ample experience in leadership. He could delegate the politics of the jobs to more effective interlocutors.
Kelly will also have to deal with the mercurial Trump. That will not be easy. Will Trump listen to Kelly’s advice on the administration’s international and domestic challenges?
Discipline in the International Arena
Foreign policy under Trump lurches from one position to another, depending on who is speaking. You would think that the President and State Department would be on the same page. However, the Trump White House has marginalized the State Department in a remarkable fashion.
Given the serious foreign policy problems faced by the US, sidelining the State Department is a recipe for long-term disaster. But even in the short-term, the US needs the State Department’s knowledge, dedication, and discipline. International challenges threaten the US and the world.
North Korea’s nuclear threat is one example where this expertise and discipline will be needed. Kelly will have to curb the Trump tendency to opine on North Korea in 140 characters.
Meanwhile, Kelly will also have to negotiate the delicate balance between Trump and Congress on Russia. Trump’s inclination to be more favorable to Russia has been challenged by Congress.
Both Kelly and Trump are suspicious of Iran. The Obama-era Iran nuclear deal was panned by candidate Trump. Trump only reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal recently. Will Kelly take Trump’s side next time around?
Kelly will have to manage Trump reactions to other international challenges. Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, and the Qatar-Gulf spat are some of these issues. In the meantime, there will also be domestic challenges.
Discipline on Domestic Challenges
Trump ‘s legislative agenda included health-care reform, tax reform, and infrastructure. So far, none have come to pass.
The House did pass a bill to gut Obamacare. But its variations were stillborn in the Senate. Trump still wants the Senate to persevere. Kelly will have to advise his boss on the practicality of such moves.
However, Kelly could learn from the health-care failure for items like tax reform. If he can persuade Trump to take a more bipartisan approach, success may be possible.
Of course, this might be a pipe-dream. Democrats and Republicans have little in common when it comes to tax legislation. Kelly might have more luck with infrastructure.
Time will tell if Kelly can discipline the White House to be successful, internationally and domestically.