White House chief of staff John Kelly made a rare — and surprise — appearance in the White House press briefing room on Thursday with the express goal of making one thing clear: He wasn’t quitting, or getting fired.
“I don’t think I’m being fired today and I am not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving,” Kelly joked, knocking down whispers that he might be the latest Trump Cabinet official to head for the exits.
But it was what Kelly said later — answering a question from reporters in the room — that was even more revealing about how he views the reach and limits of his job.
“I was not brought to this job to control anything but the flow of information to our President so he can make the best decisions,” said Kelly.
What’s not said in that quote — but certainly hangs in the air around it — is this: No one can control Donald Trump. So why try?
It’s a bit of realpolitik from Kelly. He is working to solve problems — most notably the flow of information to the president from various advisers and assorted hangers-on — that he can control. He can make it harder to get to see Trump. He can institute a closed-door policy in the Oval Office.
What he can’t do is tell Trump what to tweet (or not to tweet). Or what to say at a campaign rally or any public event. Attempting to do so is pointless. And Kelly is acknowledging that he’s not even trying.
Kelly’s quote is a reminder that attempts to figure out whether this person or that person might be able to wrangle Trump into a more conventional box are totally and completely pointless.
Trump says and does whatever he wants. Not John Kelly, not Ivanka Trump, not anyone, tells him what to do. And, while he may listen to advice from time to time, he ultimately does exactly what he wants.
There is no Trump other than Trump. Never has been. Never will be.