Laurence J Peter said many true things. For instance, “Speak when your are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret!”
“Going to church doesn’t make you any more a Christian than going to a garage makes you a car.”
But Peter’s most famous truism and thus most famous saying is this:
“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
Long ago retired Marine General John E Kelly rose to his level of incompetence and now he and the Administration he serves is paying the price.
Well, you say, don’t you understand that General Kelly has been lauded by everyone who knows him as one of the best military leaders this Country has produced in recent years?
How dare you call him “incompetent!”
Didn’t you hear White House Press Secretary Sanders once warn that it would be “highly inappropriate” to get into a debate with a four star Marine General?
Ah, but as a military man General Kelly had not risen to his “level of incompetence,” he was highly competent. No one is disputing that.
But as the White House civilian Chief of Staff charged with helping his president successfully negotiate the minefield of political Washington and the turbulence of a sharply divided electorate, Kelly shot through the Peter Principle from day one.
Instead of working to “tamp down” his bosses tendencies to shoot from the hip, dispute facts and denounce critics in harsh, sometimes vulgar terms, Kelly enabled the bosses worse tendencies and joined in attacking instead of attempting to win over his critics.
Remember when an African American member of Congress said that Trump had been disrespectful in a phone call to the widow of a slain American solider, Kelly, instead of trying to sooth the critic’s ire in a friendly, solicitous and politically diplomatic way called her someone who was just sounding off like an “empty drum?”
And last October, Kelly opined that our Civil War was caused by an “inability to compromise.”
No, General, our civil war was fought because enough people in the North found themselves unable to compromise any longer with the idea that human beings should be held as slaves, as chattel in this Country.
Compromise was not the issue, slavery was the issue.
We are all entitled to our opinions. And a military general is probably more able to express them in a tough, crusty way than most. But not as White House Chief of Staff. That job is to pour soothing oil on troubled waters, not as one commentator put it “to wade back into the fray of Civil War history” and to dampen the critic’s ire, not reinforce their anger by calling them names.
And now, when the Rob Porter story broke around the White House, Kelly first came forward with an over the top statement of full support for Porter. Until a couple of days later, when the abused former wife produced a picture of her black eye she said Porter had given her. Then Kelly backtracked and said he was shocked and claimed he had then acted decisively against Porter within forty minutes of learning the truth.
Unfortunately for him, we soon learned that Kelly had known about the accusations of spousal abuse against Porter for months, having learned about them from the FBI. And did nothing until it was impossible to pretend otherwise.
Then Kelly publicly claimed he was shocked?
Together with whatever characterization of Kelly’s actions you care to make – callous disregard for credible claims of spousal abuse (particularly in this new day of female reckoning), cover up of Porter’s situation, lying about his own role – there is no disputing the fact that General Kelly has shown gross incompetence in the important job of Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.
The post of Chief of Staff requires not total, blind loyalty to whatever mistakes and foolish actions the president might undertake but loyalty to the job of helping the president avoid such mistakes and if he makes them to helping ease the problem, not double down in making it worse.
In the present case John E Kelly hasn’t protected the president from the fire surrounding the White House because of Porter. He has poured kerosene on it.
Kelly as Marine Corp General – great.
Kelly as White House Chief of Staff – totally incompetent.
And now, having met Laurence J Peter big time Kelly should have the sense and decency to resign!