When a White House official has been rumored to be on the way out for three months or more, it's probably an act of mercy to let him go.
But Reince Priebus isn't the only one who deserves a moment of sympathy. John Kelly is taking over a White House staff that is badly divided in competing faction (which is not unusual) and chaotic (which is).
The move could reduce the degree of chaos — but only if Kelly, unlike Priebus, actually gets the power of a chief of staff.
Priebus has been on the endangered species list ever since he was appointed. Trump never invested him with total confidence or full power. Even worse, Trump often derided him in private meetings as a weakling for having suggested Trump withdraw from the presidential campaign after the "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced, a jibe that other aides leaked more than once.
It was always clear that Priebus was merely one of several advisors at the top level. He was mostly Trump's liaison with the Republican establishment from which he came — not chief of staff in the classic sense. He wasn't given the power to enforce the president's wishes,assuming he could figure out what they were. There were too many competing centers of power.
Former chiefs of staff I talked with were unanimous, and vocal, in saying that was a big mistake.
John Kelly knows what a chief of staff's job is supposed to be. He made his career in the Marine Corps, where a chief of staff is a figure of immense authority.
The question is whether Trump knows how the job is intended to work, and whether his high regard for generals will lead him to give Kelly the power he needs.
(Trump's reverence for generals isn't boundless; he's reportedly chewed out H.R. McMaster on policies he didn't like — most notably, the recent decision to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal with Iran.)
Kelly presumably gets extra points for his vigorous enforcement of Trump's immigration orders -- even though he privately chafed about not knowing what they were before they arrived.
The job of White House chief of staff is often said to be the most difficult position in Washington.
The average tenure — before the Trump administration, anyway — was roughly two years. President Obama, for all his insistence on "no drama," still ran through four chiefs of staff in eight years. Office pools on how long Kelly will last are already being drawn up.