• Daniel Ethan Finneran

A New Sheriff In Town

August 2017


This morning, President Trump welcomed to the West Wing another new sheriff, another top aide, another number two. He promoted to serve henceforth as his newly-minted Chief of Staff, General John Kelly—the former Director of Homeland Security and military savant. Set to begin in his new role at day’s end, Kelly will be replacing Reince Priebus, the steadfast yet uninspiring former RNC chair, who’d held his position in Trump’s White House for no more than six months. It would be a stretch to describe Priebus’s tenure, so long as it lasted and as premature as it ended, as having been a productive one. Nor could one call his job laudable. For that matter, to claim it as having been even creditable would be a leap. All in all, Priebus was generally an ineffective, if not incompetent Chief of Staff.


His appointment to the office seemed to be one not of fitness but rather of convenience. He was available and had to his name a small pedigree. As former head of the RNC, he had his hands daily in the intricacies of a complex, national, and storied organization. One might’ve thought so, but apparently, that didn’t mean he could bring to the Trump White House any simulacrum of organization. To the details that flew every which way from morning until night, he was inattentive. To the diurnal goings-on, which require of a man assiduity, endurance, and perspicacity, he wasn’t conditioned. He was unassertive and pliant: everyone knew that the quickest route to the president’s ear was directly through Priebus. Seldom would a confidante, a friend, or journalist need to circumvent the Chief of Staff. Into the Oval Office, everyone flowed and out of it, everything leaked. A body can’t survive by merely imbibing and excreting, ingesting and spitting up. There must be sustenance, action, and movement and Priebus gave the White House none.


Kelly, likely, is just the man to step in, sling this administration around his shoulders—heavy though they are with epaulets, medals, and noble decorations—and put it into forward motion again. Wasting little time, and concerning himself little with anyone’s ego, he’ll clamp down on the quibbles, stanch the power-grabs, and censor the headlines. He’ll put his finger into the leaking holes, box the ears of the talking heads, and hush the dizzying hearsay. He’ll focus an unfocused president and sublimate his indecent “id”.


If controlling or, rather, anticipating the president’s caprice wasn’t enough of a challenge in and of itself, he’ll be tasked with another intractable concern. At the moment, the most formidable issue into which he walks is the schism between Chief Advisor Steve Bannon and Wunderkind Jared Kushner. He’ll attempt to broker an alliance between these two, their factions, and their discontents. Kelly will have to mollify the obstreperous Bannonite right, the faction that yells and scathes against any measure that isn’t sufficiently populist or unenlightened. He’ll also have to deal with the Kushnerian left, who push with a subtle persistence for a more cosmopolitan agenda. For Kelly, their reconciliation, if even it’s possible, will be a herculean task. The chasm between the them seems to widen by the day. If indeed it’s bridgeable, Kelly will have to be not only Chief of Staff, President Trump’s better angel, but a clever and dexterous engineer.


The thinking goes that after a forty-five-year military career, one during which he led his valiant Marine battalions all the way from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, to the far-off northern lands to the sunny tropic scenes, he unlike any other veteran, any other leader, any other diplomat will be able to navigate the crags, the promontories, and the maelstroms that ripple through this tempestuous West Wing. He’ll be able to combine in one severe and stoic temperament his refreshing clarity of thought and stability of will—both of which were sharpened by his decades of gallant service and smelted under the pressures of war. He’ll be mindful and deft as not to impose himself on the many and sundry personalities that surround him amongst the White House staff, but at the same time, he won’t let their prior tomfoolery fly. The staff will transition from under to upperclassmen, sophomoric to wise. In this way, they’ll become professionals. He’ll institute order, without being too officious, finding those places where he can counsel without meddling. He’ll strike the proper balance. He’ll find and smooth out the details that for too long went overlooked and he’ll try to turn what’s become a sitcom into a reality—one which we might eventually come to be proud of in calling our own.


Above all, we can hope only that he may be uniquely able to right this wayward ship. One can just as well pray that he’ll be able to edify and, through his example, influence all those cabinet members with whom he works. Many of them are riven after six disputatious months with enmity and strife. It’s a house divided—one tenuously perched upon a bucket-full of sand. For it to find its sediment, for it to congeal and stand resiliently as one sturdy city on a hill, he must unify them all in a common cause. He must be an agent for change, for chastening, for conciliation. We’ll see if he can be these things. So too will we see if he needs to be more.

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Success, ‘tis said, yet more success begets– On the prosperous rains ever more profits. So reads the adage of the Gospel’s Jew: The iron law, the Effect of Matthew. “To him who has much, more will be