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Who Is John F. Kelley? Why does he frighten me?

John Kelly is, above all else, a Marine. Born and raised in Boston, Kelley enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970.  He rose to the rank of  sergeant. Then he went to college at  the University of Massachusetts and returned as a  commissioned Officer of Marines. Lt. Kelley rose through the ranks until he became a  member of  the Commandant’s liaison to the U.S. Congress and then part of the  Supreme Allied Command in Europe. In 2002, he became a Brigadier General, and spent much of the next two years in Iraq before he returned to DC  as the Legislative Assistant to the Commandant from 2004 to 2007. Promoted to Major General, Kelley became  the Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force at  Camp Pendleton before the command deployed to Iraq in early 2008 for a year-long mission as Multinational Force-West in Al Anbar and western Ninewa provinces. After rotating home and being confirmed as a Lieutenant General Kelley served as the Senior Military Assistant to two Secretaries of Defense, Messrs. Gates and Panetta, from March 2011 to October 2012. With a fourth star, Kelley commanded  the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). As SOUTHCOM commander, Kelley worked with America’s interior police, particularly the FBI, DEA, and  the Department of Homeland Security.

The rumors are that John Kelley will be fired. I do not know what to think that means.

The appointment of John F Kelley as Trump’s chief of staff frightened me.  The job of chief of the WH staff is not in the Constitution. In fact the founders were afraid of having generals run the government.  Trump initially recruited two generals to his cabinet. Faced with chaos and incompetence by the folks who wanted to work for him,  Mr. Trump decided to see whether  a retired four-star Marine Corps general, could impose a new sense of discipline on an unruly and chaotic West Wing.  Has not worked out so well.

Jefferson fought with Hamilton over the role of the military.  Hamilton wanted to be the General in charge of a 5000 man internal army.  Fortunately for us, Jefferson won that fight.  In dictatorships around the world since that time, the position of Minister of the Interior or Head of the National Police has usually been critical to the abolition of democracy.  Just look at Ataturk and now, his successor Erdogan, as a model.  Or look at Russia where the KGB’s Putin is now the effective dictator.

That was why I was worried when Trump first appointed Kelly as the Secretary of The Department of Homeland Security.  Aside from all else, TSA already has its own national police force, the Federal Protective Service, FPS.  The FPS, unlike the military and all other police forces,  ominously does not include obedience to the Constitution in its list of duties.  Trump at one point threatened to appoint David Clark, a far right nutter of a police chief, as head of that force.   Fortunately, Clark never got that job but Kelly as the second in command of the White House is scary.  We do not know how Kelly would feel, for example, if Trump tried, as he has proposed, to call up the National Guard to act as an internal army in response to some imagined threat, or expanded the FPS.  As Trump’s chief of staff, Kelley redefines that role in the time of a President who is incompetent,

Josh Dawsey and Eliana Johnson of Politico write about Kelley’s job, the position filled until now by Reince Priebus: “The unpredictable nature of the information flow in the White House made him uneasy, several administration officials say. He lost his cool when other West Wing staffers knew things that he didn’t, and he would call people who had spoken to the president to ask them what Trump had told them. He would run from meeting to meeting trying not to miss anything. He would corner people who criticized him publicly and ask them to stop – but admit the criticisms were close to accurate. … Trump never seemed to fully trust Priebus … And he never fully empowered him, softly undermining him by calling him ‘Reince-y’ and making strange asides, officials said.

“At one point, (Trump) told associates that Priebus would make a good car salesman. At another, he mocked him for expressing excitement when he spotted his house from Air Force One, flying over Wisconsin. Trump exacerbated Priebus’ status by frequently complaining about him to other staffers and outside advisers … His press shop was criticized for fighting for protecting Priebus in the press over other staffers and the president. For some, defending him was just an old habit. One senior administration official even called the communications office’s fixation with defending Priebus an ‘inappropriate use of government funds.'”

Kelly is no Priebus.


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