The Corner

Politics & Policy

Why the Knives Are Out for John Kelly

I think it’s pretty clear that John Kelly and Don McGahn made significant errors throughout the whole Rob Porter saga. And I agree with Rich about the renewed “brittleness” of the West Wing. It doesn’t shock me in the slightest that the press won’t let go of the story — and in part for wholly defensible reasons. Putting aside the salacious and outrageous underlying allegations, the best way to keep any story alive is to keep changing your story, which the White House has been doing at a breakneck pace.

But, as a matter of Kremlinology, I think the most interesting thing about all of this is not that there are long knives out to get Kelly, but who is wielding them. Corey Lewandowski, that renowned pillar of decency and decorum to the fairer sex, is pissing from a great height on Kelly. So is Anthony Scaramucci, another poster boy for political rectitude.

There are reports that Ivanka Trump is a leader of the Get-Kelly Brigade as well, which would suggest that Jared is in on the act too.

Again, putting aside the merits of the brief against Kelly, who does seem to have screwed up, one could see this attempted coup as the tribute vice pays to virtue. What I mean is, at least in the case of Lewandowski and Scaramucci, the fact that they want Kelly gone should be seen as testament to the fact that Kelly has been effective in bringing some discipline to the White House. He has restricted access to the president and regularized the information flow.

No doubt this vexes people who benefited from the free-for-all atmosphere of the pre-Kelly days. It might also explain Kelly’s misguided reluctance to oust Porter, since it appears he was integral to the process of managing the West Wing. Kelly may indeed need to go, but it’s hard to see how his ouster will lead to a more disciplined White House.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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