Tim Stanley: Trump may have liked Scaramucci, but he respected John Kelly
Trump needs the decisive protection, competence, control the new chief of staff appears to provide, Stanley writes
Editor’s Note: Timothy Stanley, a conservative, is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Donald Trump has had three communications directors since May. If the President’s goal was to communicate utter chaos, it’s working. Our only hope now is that the chaos is coming to an end.
Anthony Scaramucci, whose tenure ended Monday with an announcement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, made it just 10 days into his job – 10 days that have to go down as some of the most bizarre in political history.
In his defense, he appeared sincerely to love his President and has paid a high personal price for his loyalty. His then-pregnant wife filed for a divorce, which her lawyer insists had nothing to do with Trump, and Scaramucci missed the birth of his son last week. For what? To have his professional reputation potentially ruined by a job he should never have been offered.
He was caught ranting to a journalist about his co-workers, whom he described as paranoid and mentally ill. Trump “loved” the outburst, according to Axios; the new chief of staff, John Kelly, evidently did not. Scaramucci was sacked on Kelly’s orders. The former retired US Marine Corps general intends to run a tighter ship.
And that’s the best spin on this farce that I can give: Kelly made a swift assessment of Scaramucci’s character, took decisive action and has asserted his authority.
My suspicion is that while Trump probably enjoyed Scaramucci, he’s more likely to respect Kelly. Army men cast a spell over him. How else to explain his defense of Mike Flynn, his former security adviser?
Flynn, of course, went early. Later went Reince Priebus, formerly chief of staff, and Sean Spicer, formerly press secretary.
This fast turnover is highly unusual: it tells us many things. That Trump can be hard to work for, perhaps. That his unusual election victory left chaos behind, certainly. It has necessitated improvisation and unsustainable balancing acts.
As a link to the Republicans on the Hill, Priebus once seemed necessary. But that link has proven hard to maintain and produced small returns: what has Trump gained by backing the GOP’s hugely unpopular healthcare reform?
The unorthodox nature of advisers like Flynn or Scaramucci, by contrast, reflects Trump’s anti-establishment instincts. At least Scaramucci was genuinely eccentric. Spicer, one always sensed, was trying to appear far wilder and angrier than he really was. That’s what often happens when you have a charismatic boss: the weaker staff members, desperate to please, act up and let themselves and everyone else down.
Trump doesn’t need showmanship. He needs competence.
In fact, this latest comedic twist might actually be a sign of competence breaking through. Kelly has obviously been given full authority to clean things up. Sacking Scaramucci is proof that he intends to use it. From this, a greater sense of order and direction will hopefully flow. The only man who can undermine it is the only man with the authority greater than Kelly: the President. And he’d be really, truly, ridiculously foolish to try.
Hopefully this is the final firing. If not, it may well go on until the bitter end, when the news ticker across the bottom of your TV screen says “Donald Trump sacks himself.”