An Embattled White House Gets a General

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John F. Kelly.

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Doug Mills/The New York Times

On Friday, President Trump named John Kelly chief of staff, presumably to bring order to an increasingly dysfunctional White House. Mr. Kelly’s first and biggest challenge is to bring discipline to the president, since the chaos starts with him.

Mr. Kelly, a Marine Corps general who has been secretary of homeland security, inherits a flailing, ineffective operation that is consumed with an investigation into ties to Russian hacking of the presidential election; divorced from the vast federal government; and rudderless as to policy, which is governed more by impulsive tweeting than anything resembling orderly decision-making.

Why Mr. Trump chose Mr. Kelly is not entirely clear. Maybe he likes the idea of a general sitting outside his office door; maybe he thinks a military man can impose order. Maybe he prizes Mr. Kelly’s loyalty as a willing enforcer of his immigration policies.

Mr. Kelly is a not a political person like Reince Priebus, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who has now been shown the door. Having served as commander of the United States Southern Command, which encompasses military operations in South and Central America and the Caribbean, Mr. Kelly possesses far greater managerial experience and far less political baggage than Mr. Priebus, who brought on his own team of party functionaries and infighters, most of whom have also left or been kicked out.

Mr. Kelly, who has experience in Iraq and lost a son in combat in Afghanistan, has the capacity to be the adult in the room. A decorated, retired military officer, he most likely does not see the White House job as a springboard. His biggest challenge will be to mobilize a deeply divided staff to deliver something for Americans who want to see progress rather than pratfalls and bickering from the White House.

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