Donald Trump is not much of a man. He feels sorry for himself, he whines, he gropes women; he bullies the weak. He brags and he lies. As a young man, this self-proclaimed athlete collected five draft deferments rather than wear his country’s uniform. He doesn’t even work out. The motto emblazoned on Trump’s bogus coat of arms should probably be “faithless,” which makes it odd that he has picked as his chief of staff a general steeled in a service whose motto is “ever faithful.” (The Trump coat of arms was reportedly lifted from another family, with the motto “integrity” replaced—inevitably—by “Trump.”)
John Kelly, retired Marine four-star and new White House chief of staff, has been throughout his career everything Trump is not: He has endured more than Trump could imagine, and has displayed virtues that Trump may not understand and certainly has not exhibited, among them candor, courage, and discipline. Which is why some observers have welcomed Kelly’s hiring as evidence that perhaps the president is learning, that maybe now we will have a disciplined White House that will focus on the business of public policy. Maybe the early morning tweets will diminish or even stop.
Trump’s pick of Kelly is probably better understood in a broader and darker context. That includes a speech that he gave the same day to New York’s Suffolk County Police Department calling on cops to bang suspects’ heads into squad cars; the brusque, uncoordinated dismissal of transgender service personnel by presidential tweet; a speech a week earlier at the commissioning of USS Gerald R. Ford urging sailors to lobby their representatives; a harangue to 30,000 Boy Scouts that included a rant about loyalty, and that earned him an astonishing rebuke from the head of the Boy Scouts of America; and a longer history of toying around the edge of inciting violence, to include the assassination of his opponent in the last election.