It won’t be easy to fill John Kelly’s shoes, and not because of a masterful job by the retired Marine general, rather, because all the logical candidates have seen this movie before, and there is no happy ending. Sunday, Nick Ayers confirmed he was turning down the job, and, he’s leaving his chief of staff post with Vice President Mike Pence. How do you go from leading candidate to leaving the White House altogether in a matter of hours? Donald Trump wants a two-year commitment. But that’s what he told Kelly too.
A 36-year old turning down an offer to be White House Chief of Staff is about as a decisive a vote of no confidence as you can find in our system. https://t.co/EgMslSV3GI
— Daniel Benjamin (@Benjamin05055) December 9, 2018
In any ordinary White House, the job he is declining — for what he calls family reasons — would be an ambitious insider’s dream. To take two recent examples: Rahm Emanuel, who served as chief of staff to President Barack Obama, went on to serve as mayor of Chicago, and Leon Panetta, who spent two and a half years in the job under President Bill Clinton, served as CIA chief and Secretary of Defense.
It’s a different story under Trump. A job that was once a ticket to Washington royalty has recently become a laughing stock. Trump’s first two top aides, Kelly and Reince Priebus before him, have left as diminished and arguably humiliated figures, unable to control the wild chaos of this president’s White House.
In a single sentence, a source close to the president sums up Trump’s challenge in trying to lure a new chief of staff: “History has already predetermined the next guy’s fate.”
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) December 10, 2018
Trump was also reportedly looking at Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, but that appears unlikely too. CNBC says:
“Mnuchin has indicated to his inner circle that he feels best served as the head of Treasury, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the privacy of the ongoing discussions.
“Then there are reports budget director Mick Mulvaney is on the short list. This isn’t looking promising either.”
NEW: A source close to Mulvaney tells me he is no longer interested in COS job, Mnuchin and Lighthizer sending out same signals…. list of potential replacements for Kelly shrinking by the hour.
— Nancy Cook (@nancook) December 10, 2018
That leaves a handful of other possible replacements including ultra-conservative GOP Representative Mark Meadows.
it goes without saying there will be, and already is, intense opposition to Meadows. The Freedom Caucus chairman has made more enemies than most in Washington. https://t.co/Ez4eop54BW
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) December 9, 2018
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are also said to be in the running, but Lightizer has indicated a lack of interest.
"I'm entirely focused on what I'm trying to do and it's difficult enough," @USTradeRep Robert Lighthizer tells @margbrennan @FaceTheNation, asked if he was interested in replacing chief of staff John Kelly https://t.co/i0rxtGjihE pic.twitter.com/1w5BiMCyDD
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) December 9, 2018
Gee, wonder why no one seems to want what is typically considered the most powerful job in the White House? No one wants to buy tickets on the Titanic after you’ve seen the movie. https://t.co/9JT3xVxjFu
— peter zeidenberg (@przeidenberg) December 10, 2018
The next White House Chief of Staff will be the first person who says yes
— andy lassner (@andylassner) December 9, 2018