White House

Peggy Noonan: John Kelly has the confidence of a general and the power of the last available grown-up

Peggy Noonan

I realized as I wrote this that I’ve never met a Kelly I didn’t like, who wasn’t admirable. There was the great journalist Michael Kelly, lost in Iraq in 2003 and mourned still by anyone with a brain: What would he be making of everything now? There’s Gentleman Jim Kelly, formerly of Time and an award-winning journalist. Ray Kelly was one of New York’s finest police commissioners. Megyn Kelly is a brave, nice woman. I wrote once of a small miracle in which a group of friends arrived, late and in tears, to see John Paul II celebrate Mass in New York. The doors of the cathedral were shut tight. A man in a suit saw our tears, walked over, picked up a sawhorse, and waved us through. As we ran up the steps to St. Patrick’s, I turned. “What is your name?” I cried. “Detective Kelly!” he called, and disappeared into the crowd.

Grace Kelly was occasionally brilliant and always beautiful. Gene Kelly was a genius. There is the unfortunate matter of the 1930s gangster “Machine Gun Kelly,” but he is more than made up for by Thomas Gunning Kelley (an extra e, but same tribe), who in 1969 led a U.S. Navy mission to save a company of Army infantrymen trapped on the banks of a canal in South Vietnam’s Kien Hoa province. He deliberately drew fire to protect others, was badly wounded, waved off treatment, saved the day. He received the Medal of Honor. There are other Kellys on its long, illustrious rolls.

So Gen. John Kelly (retired), U.S. Marine Corps, veteran of Anbar province, Iraq, and new chief of staff to President Trump: onward in your Kellyness.

Everyone wonders what he’ll do, what difference he’ll make. He is expected to impose order and discipline, tamp down the chaos. I suspect his deepest impact may be on policy and how it’s pursued, especially in the area of bipartisan outreach.

To continue reading Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal, click here.