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The appointment of General John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff has been greeted in some quarters as a victory for rational decision-making in a presidency defined by dysfunction. Yet General Kelly’s recent tenure at Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in which he presided over and defended an unprecedented crackdown against undocumented immigrants, should puncture the myth that Kelly’s arrival in the West Wing will check the worst impulses of the Trump presidency.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
Whether General Kelly fully agrees with the Trump radicalism on immigration or whether he is just a good soldier is irrelevant. Either way, he has been presiding over and facilitating a profoundly cruel and counterproductive immigration policy. Gen. Kelly’s tenure at DHS, and the very fact that he took the White House job in the first place, makes clear he is more of an enabler of the Trump worldview than an adult voice of reason.
Below, we highlight links and excerpts from several voices who share our assessment about General Kelly and his arrival at the White House:
Writing at Bloomberg View, columnist Al Hunt expresses pessimism about the notion that General Kelly will revive the Trump presidency or will be a voice of reason in the White House:
Politicians and Washington talking heads are falling all over themselves to describe how the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, might bring some order to a chaotic, dysfunctional and failing presidency. Wrong. He’s the wrong person for the wrong job for the wrong president.
…His reputation as a straight shooter has suffered during his stint in the Trump administration. That might be why the president likes him. Many thought he would be a brake on Trump’s mean-spirited, anti-immigration views. He hasn’t been.
…The last time a military commander was named chief of staff for a beleaguered president was Al Haig 44 years ago in the Nixon administration. It didn’t take long to see that the problem was the emperor, not the clothes. That’s true today.
In Vox, Dara Lind writes, “This is the Trump administration’s dark reboot,” assessing how Gen. Kelly fits neatly alongside President Trump’s disturbing worldview on immigration:
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who Trump announced in a Friday tweet would be his new chief of staff, is perfectly in line with the brand that first brought Trump to campaign success: the idea that the world is a terrifying place full of people (mostly foreigners) who want to undermine social order and the American way of life, and that the tough American men who stand up to them shouldn’t be too closely questioned about how they keep those threats at bay.
…The appointment of Kelly — along with a speech Trump gave in Long Island on Friday afternoon that harkened back to the most chilling rhetoric of his campaign — is a sign that the Trump administration is rededicating itself to placing those ideas front and center. And it’s rhetoric that, even beyond the policy agenda it represents, invites violence into the crevices of American life.
…John Kelly is very good at telling people to be afraid — either of the government, or of the people the government is fighting. That’s not just Trump’s brand. It’s his theory of governance.
Kamal Essaheb, immigration policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said Kelly always gave mixed messages about where he stood on immigration. He expressed sympathy for young immigrants who benefitted from the embattled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded them from deportation, but deferred to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the program’s future. ‘In six months it seems like he really has run an agency that’s engaged in really aggressive enforcement that I hadn’t seen as long as I’ve been doing this work,’ Essaheb told BuzzFeed News.
Kelly would often hide behind the idea that he was just following the law when giving direction on arresting and deporting immigrants, Essaheb said. But that was a departure from his predecessors, who exercised discretion to avoid ‘scattershot enforcement’ with limited resources.
‘[DHS] is accomplishing the spirit of what the president is asking,’ Essaheb said. ‘He wants a deportation army, he wants to scare immigrants who are living here and to some extent Secretary Kelly has accomplished that.’