John Kelly is In, Anthony Scaramucci is Out, and “Peak Chaos” has Arrived

Today’s post was supposed to be about a big ass shark. But that can be saved for later (even though Shark Week was last week, but who’s counting days?).

Yesterday, Scott Adams wrote something I wanted to respond to. Today’s news makes this post more fun to do.

Plus it’s easier for me. So that’s that.

There has been a massive shakeup at the White House in the past couple of weeks. Anthony Scaramucci was in, now he’s out (big mistake). But at least he took out Reince Preibus and Sean Spicer with him.

On the surface, this looks like pure chaos, and for the time being, it is. No shakeup comes without chaos. The system needs repair.

Since the start of the year, Scott Adams has been predicting that the Trump story arc among the “experts” would go from “Trump is Hitler” to “Trump is incompetent” by summer. Finally, by the end of the year, we would wind up at “Trump is effective, but we don’t like it.”

It’s now the peak of the summer. And it looks like the “Trump is incompetent” part of the story arc has peaked along with it.

“Trump is incompetent” began with the first failure of the dubious attempt at healthcare reform in the early spring in the House. After a second round succeeded, it has now collapsed in the Senate for what appears to be the 10 count. At the same time, the earthquake at the White House struck. Disaster piled on top of disaster. It’s hard for “Trump is incompetent” to get any worse than this.

So where would the story best flow from here?

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is generally the best clue to go by. This phase of the story, you may surmise, corresponds to a hell of sorts, a katabasis. This is a great trial, a hell.

Often, the hero receives aid in his quest or even in his katabasis. Frodo Baggins received aid from Samwise Gamgee all the way into Mount Doom. Odysseus got help from Athena at the moment of his greatest peril – his arrival on Ithaca after a 20 year absence. Obi-Wan Kenobi helped Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star even though he was dead. And so on.

Scott Adams said this yesterday about the new White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly:

Expect to see lots of stories about General Kelly bringing efficiency and effectiveness to the White House. Reporters and pundits don’t want to criticize a four-star general who fought for them. At best, expect the anti-Trumpers to say the Chief of Staff is calling the shots, not the President. That’s the predictable fake news attack. But I don’t think it will stick through the end of the year.

Sure enough, a day later, the ouster of Scaramucci, who the media hated, seemed to have been done at the behest of Kelly. I consider this a big loss, but my opinion doesn’t matter here (in other words, this is a persuasion only post). What does matter is it’s perfect confirmation bias for such a narrative.

Under an Adamsian systems analysis then, General Kelly is the character in the story (the story according to the “experts”) that’s helping to implement a new, more effective system at the White House, overwriting the old, less effective one. This just appears like chaos for now.

However, I think that to truly get from “incompetent” to “effective, but we don’t like it,” before the end of the year, Trump will need to have a major domestic legislative accomplishment. Scott Adams linked to this list of accomplishments, but the problem is that they aren’t really big enough to grab massive attention. Other things, like the stock market or job numbers, aren’t single, monumental events and they can be plausibly explained away. The president’s opposition always explains away good jobs numbers, or a good stock market, no matter if his name is tagged with an R or a D. There needs to be a big accomplishment through congress, one that’s impossible to ignore. With healthcare seemingly dead, what comes next?

Enter tax reform.

According to Republicans everywhere, it’s crucial to get tax reform done before the end of the year, and Paul Ryan says there is a general agreement in place for tax reform right now, and the lessons of the healthcare bill’s failure have been learned.

Of course, this is Paul Ryan, so take it with a grain of salt.

But there is a strong incentive to pass tax reform among Republicans, because if, after the healthcare failure, they can’t agree on something so basic according to their stated principles, it would really display that they haven’t done a thing since the new congress began. As such, some would be vulnerable in 2018. Mid-terms usually haven’t been favorable to an incumbent president’s party. So they need to do something. That something should be tax reform.

If tax reform gets done in the fall, that will be an accomplishment that can’t be ignored.

And that would lead into “effective, but we don’t like it,” and right on Scott Adams’ target.

In a way, it would mirror last year’s story arc.

Meltdown total meltdown President Trump person of the year 2016

This was a story arc I predicted would happen months before Time in Stumped. The magazine’s editors didn’t read it. You should.