I was not going to comment on the latest in the ongoing Trump-White House-Washington fiasco, but I saw a very useful article by Liberal insider and former Jean Chrétien communications director Peter Donolo in the Globe and Mail. I really hope General* (retired) John F Kelly, President Trump’s new Chief of Staff reads it.
Mr Donolo lays out four rules for running the PMO or the White House:
- Hierarchy matters;
- No in-fighting allowed;
- Trust the public service and respect the institutions; and
- It’s not about you.
The first of Peter Donolo’s rules bears repeating in full:
The chief of staff in our PMO was the incomparable Jean Pelletier. He was an experienced, sophisticated political veteran (the longest-serving mayor of Quebec City). Importantly, he was – age-wise – a peer of the Prime Minister. And he was the gatekeeper. Every morning, after our senior staff meeting, it was Jean – not a gaggle of aides – who (along with the Clerk of the Privy Council) briefed the PM … [and] … He had a strictly ordered org chart. Within your responsibilities, you had tremendous scope. I certainly had that in communications. And access to the Prime Minister. That’s how he could attract and retain some of the wisest most experienced advisers in Canadian public policy – such as Eddie Goldenberg and Chaviva Hosek. But he was firm about one cook not stirring another’s pot.“
That’s the one I hope General Kelly thinks about. The White House is full of strange people, beginning with President Trump. Some of them, again beginning with President Trump, are egomaniacs, megalomaniacs and, in many other ways,
borderline full fledged loonies. They need firm leadership and management. I don’t know many American generals but General (ret’d) Kelly’s biography suggests a man who is able and willing to lead and manage and who is accustomed to obedience. On the other hand I, at least, get the impression that people like Steve Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci, who has, already, been fired, reportedly by General Kelly, are not used to being obedient to a system or to a chief-of-staff. I think that’s going to be a problem and I think that some advice from Mr Donolo applies: “There is conflict in any organization. Agendas and egos clash. In our government, there were sometimes contentious relationships between ministers (including, at times, between the PM and his own finance minister). But it was taboo for anyone in our office to badmouth a colleague, a minister or an MP. And to weaponize it through a media leak would have meant instant dismissal.” I hope that General Kelly’s mandate extends to summarily firing anyone (anyone who wasn’t elected to office) who he thinks is creating unnecessary conflict within the White House.
I am not a fan of President Trump; I sincerely hope he resigns or is impeached; I believe he is a weak, foolish man who is unfit for the office he holds … but, I suspect, just marginally better than Hillary Clinton would have been. But he is the people’s choice and he needs a functioning Executive Branch. I have, in the past, expressed my confidence in some of his cabinet secretaries …
… and advisors; I repose similar confidence in John Kelly and I hope that he can bring some “good order and discipline” to the White House … it needs it.
* Mr Donolo got General (ret’d) Kelly’s rank wrong in the linked article; he (Donolo) called him “a battle-tested former U.S. marine brigadier-general;” he was, I’m sure battle tested and he was a US Marin Corps general but not just a one star brigadier general, he, Kelly, was a full, four star general