Consider the short, tumultuous tenure -- and humiliating sequences of dismissals -- of ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus and ex-communications directors Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci. They all got shown the door because Trump doesn't really want a true chief of staff and has reserved the job of communications director for himself.
The role of chief of staff was originally created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
and followed the military model in which a commanding general focuses on grand strategy and makes major decisions, leaving all lesser matters to a chief of staff. Eisenhower himself had served as chief of staff of the US Army, and as President appointed Sherman Adams to the White House position.
While Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson chose not to name a single chief, James Pfiffner, an expert on the American government and presidency, wrote
"someone short of the President must be in charge of coordinating the White House. No President has successfully run the White House without a chief of staff since 1968, and since 1979 no President has tried."
Trump famously encourages rivalries within his staff. He named Priebus and Steve Bannon as co-equal advisors
, neatly undercutting the authority of the role. The President also allows selected aides and cronies -- including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault, and communications aide Hope Hicks -- to walk into the Oval Office
whenever they choose.
"I play it very loose. ... I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open," Trump wrote in "The Art of the Deal." "I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops."
That's supposed to come to an end with the appointment of Gen. John Kelly as Trump's next chief of staff. "All staff will report to him," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters
It's hard to imagine that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the President's daughter and son-in-law, will report to Kelly and surrender their walk-in privileges. And one wonders where Bannon and Conway will fit into the picture.
It remains to be seen how, when, and whether Kelly can establish control over the other longtime Trump aides who currently drift in and out of the Oval Office.
If Kelly oversteps his bounds, he could end up with Priebus in the unemployment line. As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman observes
: "There are two types of non-family members in Trumpworld. Permanents & instruments. Sometimes instruments mistakenly think they're permanents."
And then there's the problem of the tweets.
No amount of pleas
have stopped Trump from personally issuing statements on social media that can contradict or undercut staff members -- or himself.
As Spicer and Scaramucci learned the hard way, you can't direct communications for a President determined to treat White House messages as things to tweet in his spare time.
President Trump might someday fit his leadership style to a traditional White House organizational chart. He might wake up one day and adopt the fundamental management principle that every employee can have only one boss. He might even realize that speaking to the nation and the world requires a daily, disciplined strategy.
All those things might happen. But don't bet on it.