OPINION | After Mooch, Kelly's first order: Control Trump's troops

While many were willing to give Anthony Scaramucci a chance as White House communications director, it became readily apparent to everyone that this wasn’t going to work out. It was an outside-the-box choice by President Trump, one of the most — if not the most — outside-the-box presidents we’ve ever had.  

However, last week, with his epic and deeply disturbing rant to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, Scaramucci made an error most often committed by young interns in their first congressional office. He demonstrated that he might not know the how to lay the basic ground rules with a reporter at the beginning of a conversation: clarifying that a conversation is on background.  

Even still, the interview displayed Scaramucci’s total lack of discipline, both in sticking to the narrative he is supposed to be promoting and in presenting a united front to the media and the public. In short, he demonstrated why in fact he could not be White House communications director.

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Contrast this with the excellent appointment of Gen. John Kelly.

If there is one word that describes the new White House chief of staff, it’s discipline, something that the West Wing needs and something that President Trump wants. You don’t bring in a four-star Marine general, empower him and have everyone reporting to him if you don’t want to enforce discipline.

 

Scaramucci was the antithesis of what Kelly embodies, and is seeking to create, in this White House, a culture of discipline. This culture of discipline should be applied in three crucial areas, first by helping direct the narrative and messaging, then by enforcing a chain of command within the staff, and finally by adhering to the president’s campaign agenda, ultimately advancing the promises he made to the people.

Kelly can bring a more cohesive and consistent approach to driving a narrative and a message. The Scaramucci saga occurred on a day when stories that could have been a massive positive for the Trump White House broke, including the Bill Browder testimony regarding Fusion GPS, the Awan brothers and Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal, the House Judiciary Committee requesting a second special counsel to investigate James Comey, Loretta Lynch and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE, and Congressman Devin Nunes’s revelation that someone inside the Obama administration made over 100 requests to unmask U.S. citizens.

Instead, we were talking about Scaramucci’s vulgar rant. If you lack discipline, you will step all over positive stories and drown them out. You cannot have a White House comms director stepping all over positive narratives to stupidly talk about his personal grudges.

Kelly can inform White House staff that they should all ask themselves one question before speaking to press, if in fact they’ve been cleared to speak to press: “Is what I’m about to say help to promoting the president and his agenda?” If the answer is no, then there must be a zero tolerance policy moving forward.

Kelly certainly understands and must implement a clear chain of command in the West Wing focused exclusively on the president’s campaign goals. The chief of staff is the president’s gatekeeper; his role is to push away the distractions and minutia to allow the president to focus clearly on the task at hand. Gen. Kelly must manage the staff, and the idea of an undisciplined communications director walking was clearly a non-starter for the new chief of staff.

But along those lines, one of the struggles of this White House hasn’t just been a communications problem: At the heart of it all, there’s been a decision-making problem. There have been too many personal agendas at work. Kelly can clear that up rather quickly by informing everyone inside the West Wing there is only one agenda: the president's campaign agenda. It was clearly a winning agenda, and there will be discipline and an adherence to it. All other personal agendas can either be set aside or those pushing them can find something else to do.

The “Mooch takes D.C.” sideshow, thankfully a relatively short one, highlighted another crucial issue in the White House: not everyone is really working for the president. This is not necessarily unusual inside a West Wing, but Kelly can lay down the law in this respect and begin to crush these competing agendas.  

There is only one real agenda in the White House, and it is the only agenda, the one that got Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE elected in the first place. Any staffer or adviser not entirely focused bringing President Trump’s campaign promises to the American people to fruition has no place in the West Wing. There’s no time for self-promotion or personal sideshows.  

Everything, and everyone, will be focused on being a part of that team and making it successful. Not a personal team, not a faction, just the president’s team and a commitment to pushing forward his campaign agenda. There are only a limited number of days the GOP has to accomplish what it has promised for decades, and voters won’t be kind if Republicans fail. It’s time to get to work.

It’s a new day at the Trump White House, with the new sheriff in town, and Gen. Kelly sent a very clear signal yesterday with the forced resignation of Scaramucci: we will be disciplined moving forward.

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.


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