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Monday, March 18, 2019

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


John F. Kelly’s front-stabbing Donald Trump’s new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci only hours after Trump named the four-star Marine general his chief of staff was a sublime first move. But unlike Ivanka or Jared Kushner, Trump isn’t Dad to Kelly. How long can it be before Kelly’s service doesn’t pleasure the president anymore?

Kelly is a patriot and an honorable man. Yes, I’ve opposed some of the Trump administration policies Kelly has carried out as homeland security secretary, like the Muslim travel ban and the reranking of deportation priorities to include offenses like DUIs, but I opposed some of Barack Obama’s deportation policies, too. What I fault Kelly’s Cabinet stint for is enforcement rigidity, not xenophobia, demagoguery or constitutional recklessness.

But President Donald Trump is a poster boy for those failings, a hothead who fouls his office, flouts the law and endangers our nation. Duty may have motivated Kelly to say yes to Trump’s West Wing summons, but he’s about to find that deceit, disarray, and derangement are daily specials at the White House mess.

Kelly’s patriotism inevitably will come into conflict with Trump’s narcissism. His loyalty to the country will be tested by the fools he’ll have to suffer, the lies he’ll have to defend and the monarch he’ll soon discover is mad. Not angry mad, though Trump is that, too, but mad mad, King George mad, “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” mad.

I have to believe that Kelly has a tipping point, and that resignation on principle is an option he’d consider. By principle, I don’t mean what forced Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus off the island: losing a cockfight to Scaramucci. I mean what Trump’s national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, wrote about in “Dereliction of Duty”: the crime of enabling a president to con the country. That book is about the complicity in high places that mired us in war in Vietnam, but it’s equally relevant to our current quagmire. It may be too much to dream that one fine day, McMaster and Kelly, disgusted by their boss, will walk, but it just may take something that big to awaken some more grown-ups in Trump’s party to their responsibility.

“We could use more loyalty, I’ll tell you that,” Trump told the Boy Scout Jamboree on July 24, in between inviting the Scouts to boo Barack Obama, boo Hillary Clinton and imagine the sexual opportunities a multimillionaire’s yacht could provide. You might think Attorney General Jeff Sessions — the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse him — could be called a Trump loyalist, but when Sessions refused Trump’s demand to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating him, Trump redefined the L word. “He was a senator,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal last week. “He looks at 40,000 people [at campaign rallies] and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. … So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.”

When Trump says “loyalty,” he means what he demanded from FBI Director James Comey: not a pledge of allegiance to the rule of law, but an oath of omerta to the Don. When Comey broke that oath — he refused to kill the FBI’s probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia — Trump fired Comey. Kelly has to know it’s only a matter of time until Trump tests him thuggishly, too.

When that happens, another former military man, Sen. John McCain, might inspire Kelly’s next move. I hope Kelly doesn’t mirror the McCain, who endorsed Trump in the Arizona primary to save his own political skin, even after Trump said McCain was “not a war hero. … He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” (Trump didn’t add that McCain — putting loyalty to his fellow POWs ahead of his own freedom — refused early release from the North Vietnamese because his father was an admiral). Instead, I hope Kelly emulates the McCain who, together with Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — no matter how hard Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump banged the hammer of Republican loyalty — voted a disgraceful health care bill down to defeat.

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who replaced Spicer as press secretary, was asked whether Sessions was on his way out, she replied with a common phrase about political appointees: “We all serve at the pleasure of the president.” Sessions, who was traveling to El Salvador while Scaramucci was trashing Steve Bannon in anatomically taxing terms, used the same words Sanders did when an AP reporter asked if he were going to quit: “I serve at the pleasure of the president.”

Two things about that idiom give me the willies. One is its feudal echo of fealty pledges. I am your obedient servant, m’lord. My loyalty is unwavering. Do with me as you wish. Something more like “at-will employee” is better suited to a democracy. It conveys the idea — they don’t need a substantive reason to let me go — but without the crypto-royalist servility.

The other thing about serving at the pleasure of the president, which didn’t give me the creeps until the present president, is its whiff of sadomasochism. Trump gets pleasure from humiliating people. Bullying turns him on. And his victims get off on their bondage. Sure, if you get power, you cling to it. But ambition alone can’t explain Spicer’s appetite for daily mortification, or the pornography of Scaramucci’s Trump-worship.

Trump has made loyalty kinky. That could be cool on Craigslist, and it may fly at Trump Tower, but the last time I looked, there’s no S&M in POTUS.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at


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31 responses to “How Long Will Trump’s New Right-Hand Man Last? Place Your Bets”

  1. Independent1 says:

    It appears that Toles needs to update his cartoon (below) on just how low the GOP will let Trump and his White House drive their party and the nation before they step in. His original cartoon was created during the election; he needs to update it now to include some of the new absolutely disgusting tendencies which corrupt peoples’ lives that Donald Trump has introduced to the White House since taking over the Oval Office .

    • Dapper Dan says:

      There is no bottom in Trumps Hell and we’re all along for the ride down

      • Independent1 says:

        Yes, Trump is even giving the Devil a lesson in pure depravity. Trump has no morality whatsoever.

        • Dapper Dan says:

          He sure doesn’t have a moral fiber in his being. This is why I’m scratching my head at the Evangelicals support of this evil monstrosity. It’s like they literally made a deal with old Scratch himself and sold their souls just so he would enact their ungodly plans for America. I profess to be a Christian and I in no way identify one bit with these hypocrites. It reminds me of the old saying the road to Hell is paved with good intentions but we all know where that road ends. The direction this country is going could actually lead to its breaking up into different factions and smaller nations like California. Over the years Texas has talked about seceding so what’s holding them up ? Talk about being a divided nation right now

          • Independent1 says:

            I agree with everything you said. For people who actually believe what’s written in the Bible, it’s hard to fathom how the preachers, ministers or what have you, that are leading the Evangelicals and many other religions so far astray, how they can justify their supporting someone like Trump who’s clearly nothing less than the poster boy of Satan himself.

            How can so many of us see Trump’s outright evilness, and these false teachers seem to look right past how corrupt Trump clearly is? It has to be as you say: These false teachers that are leading the Evangelicals and many others astray, have sold their souls to the Devil himself, to be able live with themselves as they and their followers clearly head toward damnation.

          • dpaano says:

            These so-called “pastors or ministers” of the evangelical Christians are NOT true pastors or ministers….they are charlatans just like their orange-haired leader!

          • dbtheonly says:

            I wish I had answers. The closest I’ve been able to discern is the the desire for the “old days morality” trumps (sorry) the specific behaviours.

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        Dan, the more Trump and his corporate cut throat power boys and girls try to normalize his lies and constant need to bash the media and anyone who dares tell the truth, the more he becomes the American Rasputin. Will all Americans accept his lies, intimidation or threats? Or will he end up like Russia’s Rasputin and be murdered by someone bigger and more powerful?

        Rasputin also believed he was the most powerful. Until Prince Yusupov’s two attempts to poison him failed and the Prince deleted Rasputin’s genitals with a sharp scimitar.

        • dpaano says:

          We’d need a microscope to find Trump’s genitals…..if he even still has a working set!

          • dbtheonly says:

            As Trump tells us, Theodore Roosevelt said, “Speak loudly and carry a small stick.”

          • dpaano says:

            And I can assume he HAS a “small stick.”

          • dbtheonly says:

            Rather funny though how the off-colour part has developed since the Colonel’s time?

            Under promise and over deliver is exactly reversed in Trumpville.

            Did you also laugh when the RWMO claimed that Trump’s second Putin meeting was because Trump thought Putin might be putting the moves on Melania?

          • dpaano says:

            Hey, Putin has a lot more going for him in the looks and body department than Trump….I certainly wouldn’t blame her if she took the bait!!! She already sleeps in a separate bedroom….which probably saves her from having to wake up looking at that ugly face and his lard butt, etc.! He’s certainly no king of the jungle, that’s for sure!

    • That’s one “hell” of an elevator. The pun seems appropriate for such a descriptive cartoon.

      • Independent1 says:

        Yes! And there appears to be no end to the depravity that Donald Trump will stoop to; or to which the GOP leadership along with millions of Republicans are willing to follow him toward Hell!

  2. rednekokie says:

    Trying to outguess the longevity of any of tRump’s cabinet personnel (or anyone else appointed by him, for that matter) is about equal to outguessing the spins on a slot machine. Depends upon a lot of things, none of which are logical, or even wise.
    But — I would say, just from observing the orange idiot for the past 6 months, that Kelly has from a couple of weeks to perhaps several months — but only if he keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t try to upend any of the nonsense.

  3. opinioned1 says:

    The bet should be–will Comrade trump still be around 90 days from now to fire the general???? Once Mueller gets done with the idiot the only comments he will be making is a new rant about the cell he`s setting i being a real dump. The general will still have his integrity, while comrade trump and his criminal kids will be setting in a federal pen for Russian money laundering. The best part, it will be republicans impeaching the LIAR before a jail term is imposed.

  4. Richard Prescott says:

    I give Kelly two months.
    That is because he is a tough guy and doesn’t give up easily. But there will be a turning point, and I believe it will begin this month ending with the 2018 budget problems and more politicians rebelling against Herr Drumpf. He will lash out even more than he has in the recent past.
    We are not a third world authoritarian dictatorship of a country. Trump’s core base might be, but, and this is a guess not based in actual numbers, with 75% of the country not liking his Presidency in general America will not become one.
    I wonder if he has even had the balls to ask Kelly for a loyalty pledge?

  5. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    Trump is now and will continue to be Putin’s Ambassador to Russia. He will never ever admit Russians hacked the election, even if the evidence was shoved up his Lard Ass. He can’t take a stand against Russian hacking in our media and the elections. That would weaken PUtin’s power to control the future of the US. The Republicans will use another Hillary investigation to cover up their part in Putin’s hacking because it isn’t to their advantage to stop Putin’s hackers.

    At this very moment, no American can say with any certainty what we see and hear from media is not originating from Russian hackers.

    The Trump Ambassador to Russia MUST play by Putin’s rules because he is compromised.

    In order for Putin to do his worst, he needs Trump to dismantle Constitutional rights. Isn’t that what he has already done? He allowed Tillerson to defund the State Dept. to the marrow and now if there is a major terrorist attack on Trump’s watch, Americans are sitting ducks.

    As for Kelly, he was just a front man for Trump who likes to create the image of a world leader with such vast military might that just might, if he is lucky, keep Putin at arm’s length.

    Kelly won’t last more than September. He has no clue how vicious Trump’s corporate faction can be. In reality, Kelly didn’t get rid of Moochie in typical corporate style, he used military strategy. Behind closed doors, Kushy boy and Iskanka both wanted Moochie gone. Add to that Bannon, Miller and Conway and Kelly has an ice cube’s chance in hell of controlling the out of control Trump.

    • dpaano says:

      I’m going to be optimistic and say that Kelly may last until the end of the year, but I doubt if it will be any longer than that!
      BTW, did you see the picture of Putin fly fishing with his bare chest? Who was he trying to impress? Sorry, but he’s getting a little flabby!

      • Independent1 says:

        If he lasts that long it will probably be through one string of failures after another. Trump’s already back into fomenting the discourse within the White House.

        See this article from the WaPo:

        John Kelly is doomed to fail. The reason why isn’t what you think.

        President Trump tweeted nine times this morning, attacking the “failing” New York Times, other “fake news” outlets (including the Washington Post), “hoax Russian collusion,” and Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, as a “Vietnam con artist” who “cried like a baby.”

        Today’s Twitter flare-up would seem to suggest that Kelly is destined to fail as Trump’s law and order chief of staff because Trump’s impulsiveness cannot be constrained.

        But that’s not the real reason he cannot succeed. Rather, it’s because Trump’s base, and in particular, his media and social media base, thrives on West Wing dysfunction that is rooted in what is portrayed as an existential battle between Trump’s “nationalist” staff and advisers, and the dreaded “globalists” in his midst. Because Trump has displayed no real interest in taming that beast, and in fact seems to relish feeding it, any effort by Kelly to slap Trump’s hand away from
        Twitter will have little impact on the persistent unrest roiling the White House.

        Here’s a case in point. While Trump was denouncing “fake” (i.e., mainstream) news on Twitter this morning, Breitbart, the far-right news site formerly run by his top strategist Stephen K. Bannon, had been running a story since last night attacking National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The headline: “McMaster Worked at Think Tank Backed by Soros-Funded Group that Helped Obama Sell Iran Nuclear Deal.”

        That Breitbart story attempts to link several of the right wing’s bogeymen, including McMaster himself, liberal philanthropist George Soros, and former President Barack Obama, in a liberal-funded “echo chamber” that has been promoting the Iran nuclear deal to the public.

        That story comes on the heels of a Daily Beast story over the weekend detailing an ongoing clash between McMaster and Bannon. This one reported that last week, Kelly gave a green light to McMaster’s firing of two National Security Council staffers from the Bannon camp, NSC intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and Trump Middle East advisor Derek Harvey. The Daily Beast reports that
        this “landed McMaster in the firing line of Bannon’s alt-right media
        allies and Russian troll bots, both calling for his ouster.”

        And more here:

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        dpaano, I would have agreed with you, had Trump last night not already breached his agreement with Kelly to stop the tweet storms and ranting.

        Now, Trump is bashing Senator Richard Blumental (D-CT). Worse, his plan for full takeover has begun. Trump TV has just signed off to buy up 72% of US local TV news channels through Sinclair.

        That means we get to pay for Cable TV locally and have our kids brainwashed by Trump propaganda.

        It is time to face the fact that Trump is Putin’s Russian ambassador. Come hell or high water, Trump is going to take over. He already has. The FCC won’t stop him from exceeding the allowed number of purchases of public broadcasting. Why? He appointed the head of the FCC. Just as he appointed the head of the DOE, Dept. of Ed., Dept of Labor, the Justice Department and now, he plans to retrofit the FBI and is maneuvering to take control of the CIA. All he has to do is use his National Security advisor to manipulate the CIA.

        All while the Republicans sit back and watch their government operate just like Putin’s.

        • dpaano says:

          Well, think of the money I can save if I cancel my cable rather than listen to BS on the Trump stations! That might be a GOOD thing, but I’d sure miss Smithsonian and Discovery channels!

          • Eleanore Whitaker says:

            Trump already has Lara Trump as host of the Trump TV News. (She’s Eric’s wife). Trump is also planning to take Facebook and Google hostage. If he spends one dime of taxpayer dollars on any of this, that only adds to his prison sentence.

          • I switched off Cable long ago. I have enough regular DVD purchases and youtube downloads burned to DVD’s to last two life-times. If I want to catch something on CNN, I use the computer.

  6. johninPCFL says:

    “Trump gets pleasure from humiliating people. Bullying turns him on. And his victims get off on their bondage.” – EXACTLY.

    • dpaano says:

      They may THINK they serve “at the pleasure of the president;” however, it’s the taxpayer’s money that pay their salaries! The oath they took said they swore loyalty to the United States of America, NOT to just the president!

      • dbtheonly says:

        d, do you remember the “Tenure of Office Act” of 1867, I believe? Presidents can fire their Cabinet Officers at will.

        I’ll take the “over” on Kelly lasting until October.
        I’ll take the “over” on Kelly lasting to the end of the year.
        I’ll take the “under” on Kelly lasting through 2018.
        I’ll take the “over” on Trump lasting another 90 days.
        I’ll take the “over” on Trump lasting to the end of the year.
        I’ll take the “under” on Trump being President in 2024.
        I’ll even take the “under” on Trump being President on 1/20/21.

  7. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    Kelly is military. He lived his entire life according to military rules and regulations in a regimented life. Trump hates rules, regulations and the only regimentation is what he doles out to his morons in the White House.

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