The Marine of Marines, General John Kelly, is now President Trump’s chief of staff. Poor Reince Priebus spent over six months tap-dancing around the West Wing, living in fear of his boss, Jared, Ivanka, and (no doubt) others. News Flash: Marines don’t tap dance. Period.
Kelly’s immediate firing of (now former Communications Director) Anthony Scaramucci for his disloyal comments to the New Yorker magazine must have been an eye-opener all over the Beltway.
White House staff must be having the jitters as well the President’s cabinet secretaries and appointees. They have to be wondering what will happen next.
As someone who’s known Marines for many years, I offer some background as a public service.
Loyalty to one’s fellow Marines and the chain of command is paramount. It’s how the Marines can get people to go into dangerous places where the chance of death is high – something that is contrary to the basic human instinct of survival. Thus, when the command ‘Go’ is given, a Marine immediately will jump out of a helicopter or conduct a high-risk house-to-house search.
A clear-cut chain of command is a necessary element of loyalty. Otherwise, the Marine wouldn’t jump; he or she would dither over whether the right person gave the command.
To achieve that hair-trigger response, a Marine must know who’s in charge. That’s why Kelly asked the President for total control over access to the Oval Office and made an announcement to that effect.
Kelly’s firing of Scaramucci reinforced the idea that Kelly is in charge as well as the importance of loyalty. While Scaramucci’s comments helped puff himself up with the New Yorker, he also displayed disloyalty to the President.
Next, be prepared to be tested – always. Marines are very competitive, constantly testing each other. Years ago, when I was tasked (as a civilian) to work on a project for the Corps, the welcome I received was: You take your coffee black, right? Actually I didn’t, but I knew I had to answer Yes. It’s probably why I have acid reflux today.
Later, I was taking a class at the Quantico Marine Base. The tiny town of Quantico is, as one would expect, totally Marine-ish. At lunch, my classmates and I went into town for lunch. The bar was decorated with those old metal Corps recruiting signs that once swayed in front of post offices. Sandbags marked the divide between the bar and restaurant.
The waitress took our drinks order. Seconds later, the barman hollered, ‘Who the hell ordered a DIET Coke?’ Oops.
This is not to suggest to West Wing staff to put bottles of rye on their desks. However, do not discuss one’s fondness for French vodka, a film star’s new brand of hooch, or a fashionable cocktail. On second thought, skip the cocktails altogether, and stick to straight-up booze – as in ‘no ice’. Wine? Forget it.
More on competitiveness: I recall a despondent officer (mid-late 30s) who thought he was making good time in the Marine Corps Marathon, until he heard a shout from behind: ‘Excuse me, sir!’ The officer was passed by a young Marine carrying two cement batons.
Speaking of which, the next Marathon will be on October 22. If staff (including political appointees in departments) are marathon-ready, or can be marathon-ready by October 22, then sign up and run. But don’t be surprised if Kelly has a list of every Presidential staffer/appointee’s finishing time.
Further, Marines are tidy people, perfectionist in their habits. If one’s desk is overflowing with paper, and/or computer is crashing from never bothering to scrap outdated emails, this projects a poor image.
To a Marine’s eyes, it’s not eccentricity; it’s sloppiness, and a sloppy Marine (or anyone else) is unprepared to do their duty.
When I had surgery last year (I’m fine, thanks), I had a Marine vet turned RN as my chief nurse. He was very organized, very precise, with incredibly scary tattoos. His driving force: NOBODY dies on my watch! Who wouldn’t want a nurse like that (despite the tats of huge snakes with fangs)?
Lastly, November 10th is a very important day, as the Corps was founded on November 10, 1775. Go ahead and order the cake now. And don’t forget the Corps’ motto: ‘Semper Fidelis’ (Always Faithful).
And never say ‘Boo-Yah’. Marines say ‘Ooh-Rah.’
General Kelly as Chief of Staff? Ooh-Rah!