Trump needs political White House chief of staff with eyes set on 2020

It is wrong, at least in most cases, to read too much into the departure of any White House chief of staff. That is no less true of the pending exit by retired Marine Corps general John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE. The truth is that the average tenure of a senior White House official is 18 months to 24 months. Serving the president of the United States in the West Wing is an opportunity and an honor, but it not a career. You serve, and you go. The key is to not overstay your welcome. You need to know when it is your time to leave.

A chief of staff to the president is a combination of a lot of things. You are a gatekeeper, controlling access to the Oval Office. You are a referee, handling a staff with competing interests and opinions. You care for the president, making sure that he has a balance to his schedule and manages his public and private lives. You are a policy driver, making sure that the White House agenda stays on track. You are the manager of diverse officials. You are a liaison to Cabinet members. You are a negotiator, often times reaching out to Congress and other interests to press points for the president. You are an informal ambassador, working with other nations to keep a balance between domestic and foreign policy agendas. You are a politician, balancing an official schedule with a campaign on the trail.

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Kelly has no doubt done a great job for President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE. He brought stability to the West Wing with a sure and steady hand, even though he was a bit handicapped by the fact that he did not come from a political background. Yet, now is the perfect time for Kelly to exit, since starting in January, we will shortly be immersed in the gearing up by all sides for the 2020 presidential election. The next chief of staff will need to be steeped in political experience in order to succeed in this role. He or she will have to balance the challenges of a divided government, as well as deal with a demanding campaign, all while working to advance a legislative agenda.

The chief of staff is the first person the president sees in the morning and the last person he sees when he leaves the Oval Office at night. The chief of staff is on duty 24/7. No one gets to the president without permission from the chief of staff. There are only a handful of people who have the “walk in” privileges that allow them access to the president as needed. The chief of staff must balance those wants and needs. Andy Card, chief of staff to George Bush, had a rule that if you want to see the president, you never will, but if you need to see the president, you always will.

To be an effective chief of staff, you must be devoted to the president. It is very difficult to balance a private life with your service to the president because you are basically living the life of the leader of the nation. Since the job is so demanding, it is not unusual for chiefs of staff to come and go in each administration. I am sure there are others in the West Wing who are being asked about their intentions. Do they plan to stay or go? I am sure some will be asked to go, as they have overstayed their welcome.

Now is the best time for President Trump build a West Wing geared toward the next election. Some officials will leave the White House and join the campaign. The next phase of this administration will require a balance between an agenda of governing, political differences, international challenges, federal investigations, and Democratic resistance. It will be the next chief of staff who must manage all of those often competing interests and make sure the train is not derailed by any one of them.

Whoever comes next as White House chief of staff for President Trump, one thing is for sure. He or she will be drinking from a fire hose from day one. This individual must have the patience of a saint, the managerial abilities of an executive, the political acumen of a party chairman, the negotiating skills of a diplomat, and a hide as thick as an elephant.

Bradley Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.