Help wanted: Telegenic partisan warrior capable of massaging the outsized ego of a former reality television star turned chief executive who says whatever he wants to say and doesn't much care what anyone thinks.

Now that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly — the man whose knack for imposing discipline was supposed to bring order to a tumultuous Oval Office — is suddenly vulnerable, Washington is abuzz. Will President Trump bring in someone else? Who?

We've heard a half-dozen names but only one is qualified based on that specific job description: Kevin McCarthy.

The Washington Post reports that Trump "has repeatedly floated" McCarthy's name. And, no, not because "My Kevin" knows which Starburst chews the president prefers. Because McCarthy might actually have the chops to pull it off. As well as might be possible, anyway.

Media types, loose-lipped staffers and assorted pundits say McCarthy is just one of a half-dozen possibilities, and not even the most likely one. Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who now serves as Trump's budget director, is probably the top contender. But this is the second time we've heard McCarthy's name tossed around like this. Back in July, when Reince Priebus, Trump's original chief of staff, parted ways with the president, there were rumblings about McCarthy then too.

House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, is said to be under consideration too, along with Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser, and David Urban, a veteran lobbyist who worked on the 2016 campaign.

None have McCarthy's experience as a handler of aircraft carrier-sized egos. 

As Republican leader of the California state assembly for two years, 2004-06, McCarthy greased the interface between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former actor with no experience in government or politics who was prone to the occasional brash declaration, and a Republican legislature that didn't always meet his gaze.

McCarthy worked it hard and by most accounts well as Republican leader of the Assembly. He smoked cigars with the Governator in his tent outside the Capitol and flew around with Schwarzenegger on his private jet. What did that get him? Access, influence — and the image of a schmoozing lapdog. Did he keep Schwarzenegger from making some bad decisions? No, but he might have helped minimize the "girlie men" comments. No doubt he learned a lot about working with celebrity politicians.

The comparisons between Schwarzenegger and Trump are inescapable.

Like Trump, Schwarzenegger was swept into office on the winds of a populist uprising — in his case, the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and a hilariously crowded field of comic and serious challengers. Like Trump, Schwarzenegger had taken liberal positions over the years that concerned the conservative base he sought to win over. And, as with Trump, the media, enchanted by the spectacle of his candidacy, swarmed Schwarzenegger like the star he was.

Both men promised change without fully grasping what that change might entail. “We are here to clean house!” Schwarzenegger shouted at a rally in Sacramento two days before the recall election. "Drain the swamp!" Trump shouted at campaign stops across the country in the months leading up to his historic upset.

There are distinct differences between the two celebrity chief executives that must be noted, of course: Trump has demonstrated only a passing interest in policy making. His goals can change on the winds of political convenience, partisan imperative and unexplainable whim, to the occasional aggravation of both White House aides and his supposed allies on Capitol Hill. Schwarzenegger, conversely, was very much policy oriented: He worked to put an end to gerrymandering, fighting to create the state's independent redistricting commission, and supported the state's open primary initiative, both aimed at bringing voters from the political extremes to the coherent middle.

McCarthy has been front and center for both dramadies.

Of course right now McCarthy is working hard to help Republicans maintain what many now see as a tenuous hold on the House: If 24 seats change hands, he becomes minority leader.

If McCarthy, looking ahead to the mid-term elections, doesn't like the lay of the land, would he consider taking a White House job now? I seriously doubt it.

But would our affable celebrity-politician whisperer have more sway over a borderline unmanageable president than the military general who is trying now? He just might.

I'm not the only one who thinks so, either.

"Kevin was a great leader in California and he was always a joy to work with," Schwarzenegger wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon, "so I wasn't surprised to see him quickly rise through the ranks and continue his record of leadership in Washington. He is a true public servant and if the job opens up and he wants it, he would be an absolutely perfect chief of staff."

Trump, who delighted in Schwarzenegger's poor ratings as the replacement host of "The Apprentice," won't care one way or the other. But Schwarzenegger, who did not indicate if he is delighting in Trump's ratings as president, surely appreciates McCarthy's potential for the job better than most.

Contact The Californian's Robert Price at 661-395-7399, or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; the views expressed are his own.

(2) comments


Spineless McCarthy. I am going to push to get you out of office. Enough with tax cuts for the rich, cutting health care for the poor and elderly, and pushing for a war on weed.

Daniel Magical

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