Contrary to surface appearances, Pres. Donald J. Trump and Gen. John F. Kelly have certain very important characteristics in common. Two of the most prominent are a shared disdain for Congress and the legislative process and they both hate "the media" (that is the media other than that sector of it that is under their control). Nevertheless, Kelly is a general and Trump isn't. (In fact, while he was of induction age, the latter made sure that he did not do one day of military service during the War on Viet Nam.) So, one might ask, why Kelly, in addition to their commonalities? What is his role, or roles as they may be? And oh yes. I don't think that Kelly is there by accident or simply because Trump picked him on his own.
While many folk characterize the Trump Presidency so far as a "failure," because he has been able to accomplish nothing in the way of getting major legislation through the Congress, he is well on his way to hollowing out the Executive Branch of government and destroying the regulation of the political economy as we have come to know it since the New Deal. For the branch of the ruling class that got him elected (beginning with the Mercers, et al) this is far more important than any single piece of legislation, even further massive tax cuts for the wealthy.
Anti-Trump Rally 2016 | Union Square, Manhattan, New York No. | Flickr683 ├-- 1024 - 277k - jpg
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It is no accident that this "deconstruction of the administrative state" is the current primary goal of Steve Bannon . And do notice that in the major changeovers in the White House staff that have accompanied the installation of Kelly as Chief of Staff, Bannon and his principal lap-dog Stephen Miller and lap-cat, Kelly-Anne Conway (they both came with Bannon, brought over by the Mercers, from the Cruz campaign), are very much in place and in play. Also note that it is not that Bannon does not like state apparati. It is just that like other fascists he wants state power to be fully under control of the Executive, with no independent civil service and career professionals running the day-to-day operations and, to a certain extent, being responsible for policy.
Trump, with Bannon at his side, has already made major changes/reductions in Federal government regulation in such major functions as environmental preservation, workplace safety, food and drug regulation and safety, energy policy, maintenance of the (actually pitiful) "safety net" for the poor, public education, civil rights, protecting the potentially vulnerable in such realms as sexual violence, voting rights (actually, as is well-known, under major attack by the Trumpites) and so on and so forth. Trump has achieved much in these arenas. And he has secured the appointment to the Supreme Court of a Justice that some left-wingers have described as "worse than Scalia."
But then there is Trump's personality, his inability to learn and lack of interest therein, the constant tweeting, the rants, and so forth, to say nothing about his threat to unleash nuclear holocaust, about which he obviously knows nothing and could care less. This leads one to wonder if for the ruling class he has reached the end of his utility. And of course, since the ruling class is not entirely united in how best to maintain its control of the State Apparatus, there could be competing interests among the factions.
Enter Gen. Kelly. There are indeed a number of options in play here, and more than one may be operative at the same time. Kelly could be in place to: baby-sitting Trump (reign Trump in); clear the way to fascism, with or without Trump; pave the way for Mike Pence to assume a more conventional Presidency.
When Gen. Kelly entered the scene, there was some talk that he could/would reign Trump in and even get him to pay some attention to the responsibilities of the Presidency, in such arenas as policy-by-tweet. According to a variety of biographers who have known/chronicled Trump over a long period of time, this was pie-in-the-sky. This is a man who, at 71, appears not to have low self-esteem. He appears to have none. That would explain the recently discovered fact that he spends about 40 minutes a day on the "propaganda briefings " --- reviews of pro-Trump materials in the media --- while dealing with the national security briefings --- presented to him in tiny bites --- takes about 10 minutes of his time each day.
Baby-sitting? Well, that would mean keeping Trump occupied while Kelly gets some elements of organization into the White House, first by getting rid of "non-Trump" elements like Reince Priebus, and then by controlling access to the President. In that he seems to be succeeding.
But then there is the much more important matter of the political future of this Presidency. It is highly unstable. (Not much of an original observation there.) Given the diminishing relationship between Trump and the Congressional Republicans and their own growing internal divisions, it is unlikely that Trump will be able to accomplish much in the legislative arena. And the Mueller investigation is closing in. (Case-in-point, the searching of Paul Manafort's home. He is obviously not cooperating. Must have too much to hide, none of which could be good for Trump.) And so, what does Trump do?
An option that I have mentioned previously, which I think is becoming even more likely is that, waiting 'til that last possible moment, having missed (which he likely already has) the opportunely to fire Mueller, Trump pardons everyone including himself (Constitutional test) and resigns with a speech that makes the one in WVA look mild in comparison. He then sets up his own proto-fascist party, with Bannon at his hip and Mercer money close behind him. Mike "I'm not already running for President, now or later --- ho, ho, ho" Pence has already become the Kochs' man . Already separating himself from Trump, he will likely be the Repub. nominee in 2020 in what will likely be four-way contest, like 1860, with the Trump-party, the Repubs. (with Pence), and a split Democratic party all running. In one of several ways, Trump could win, with a Nazi-like proportion of the popular vote (around 37%). More on this one in a column-to-come.
But in the meantime, back to Kelly's role, briefly. Trump, staying in the Presidency, could try to go for a fascist revolution now. Following a major (false flag of course) "terrorist" attack or some kind of major escalation short of nuclear holocaust with the DPRK, Trump might be able to get an "Emergency Powers Act," through Congress, leading to a form of 21st century fascism. Kelly, the "voice of reason," would play a major role in that scenario. OR, Kelly could be there to facilitate, at the right time, Trump's resignation, with the installation of Pence as President, now. Pence comes in, with Kelly at his hip. The Repub. establishment would then be firmly in control of the Executive Branch, without all of the Trumpist distractions, and they could get on with the work of implementing the rest of their far-right agenda in a much "calmer" atmosphere.
To be continued.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Deputy Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post; a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement;a contributor to the "Writing for Godot" section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man .Furthermore, he is a (very) occasional contributor to BuzzFlash Commentary Headlines and The Harder Stuff. He is also a triathlete (35 seasons, over 250 multi-sport races).
Dr. Jonas' latest book is Ending the 'Drug War'; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach, Brewster, NY: Punto Press Publishing, (available on Kindle from Amazon , and also in hardcover from Amazon ). His most recent book on US politics is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel (Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013 , Brewster, NY), and available on Amazon. This book is currently being serialized on OpEdNews, a project that will likely continue throughout the 2017 calendar year.