Opinion

America wanted to drain the swamp and clean house. Is this the clean house we wanted?

6 things to know about new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly

Department of Homeland Security Secretary and retired four-star general John Kelly is Trump's replacement for outgoing White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Here's what you need to know about the retired Marine.
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Department of Homeland Security Secretary and retired four-star general John Kelly is Trump's replacement for outgoing White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Here's what you need to know about the retired Marine.

Sessions and Scaramucci and Spicer and scouts. What a couple weeks it’s been.

Many of my Democratic friends have been so angry for so long they can’t converse about President Trump. But now I see Republican friends shaking their heads, too.

From a former eagle scout: “Can you believe he talked that way to 12- and 14-year-old scouts?” This about Trump’s politicized speech to the scouts at their July 24 jamboree.

From people in business, I hear: “Would you ever run a business like this?”

Others are disgusted by the president hiring and then condoning, by silence, Anthony Scaramucci, who talked about top White House staffers in a way you can’t repeat on a family website.

For some loyal Republicans, especially Senate Republicans, it’s the way Trump is treating former Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is for now the attorney general. Sessions’ sin was doing the proper ethical thing and recusing himself in the Russia investigation. His former colleagues don’t appreciate this death by a thousand tweets.

For other people I know, it was the way Trump dismissively treated transgender people by banning them from military service in a tweet, reversing policy with no discussion or detail or consultation. Trump even surprised the folks at the Pentagon, who will have to carry the policy out and will need to work with transgender members already in the service.

I’m troubled by them all, but my Trump moment was last year when we heard how Trump talks to his friends (and about women) on the videotape with Billy Bush. (Recorded by a tabloid TV show while Trump was on this way to film a soap opera appearance, a hot-mic scenario I still can’t reconcile with the leader of the free world.)

The exclamation point on the past weeks’ chaos for me was the intercontinental ballistic missile fired by North Korea. I don’t want a dictator starting a war with his neighbors or sparking World War III. But when you hear Scaramucci channel Donald Trump’s inner thoughts, it’s hard to picture this White House gang having a rational, measured debate about the appropriate response to Kim Jong Un.

Many people voted in November to throw the bums out and clean house, but is this the clean house they had in mind? Willy-nilly policy tweets, mistreatment of loyal staff and NC-17 rants from the president’s hand-picked communication director/pal?

The problem with turning over the government to outsiders is that they don’t know what they don’t know. If they don’t bring some humility and open-mindedness, we trade the establishment inertia for embarrassing chaos.

I am not someone who roots for Trump to collapse, to fail so miserably that my “side” can swoop in and claim maximum spoils. But when I hear Trump root for Obamacare to fail, after he offers no serious alternative to put in its place, I understand why those people want to see Trump get a dose of his own medicine.

American voters were tired of the establishment and ready for a deal-maker who relies on gut and instinct instead of slick consultants and poll-consulting advisers. But in weeks like these we see that seat-of-the-pants doesn’t work for running a nation. Being experienced and sober isn’t such a liability.

The stock market is peaking and we can take solace that part of our economy is performing well and the market is confident in the future of American business and our relative strength in the world economy. But just as our allies want to see a consistency and predictability in international affairs, Wall Street is going to want that, too. When we need a steady hand at the rudder, will we have one?

I’ve read both optimism and skepticism in the instant analysis about former Marine Gen. John Kelly as the president’s new chief of staff. I’m rooting for a dose of experience and discipline and sobriety for a White House that’s been the political version of a frat house.

Bill Manny is the Statesman’s community engagement editor. Email bmanny@idahostatesman.com; 208-377-6406, Twitter/Instagram @whmanny

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