White House

John Kelly—the new general in the White House—is exactly what Trump needs, says Reagan's chief of staff

Key Points
  • Former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein says John Kelly brings experience to the White House.
  • Kelly will be tasked with getting "the drama" out of President Donald Trump's administration, he says.
  • Kelly will also need to play "reality therapist" to the president, Duberstein says.
Chief of staff needs to be 'reality therapist' for president: Ken Duberstein

Newly appointed White House chief of staff John Kelly has the experience to whip the Trump administration into shape, President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff said Monday.

"What John Kelly brings is stature, is age, is some wisdom, the military bearing. But most importantly he's been in government before. Not just in at DHS, but at the Pentagon, even on Capitol Hill. That makes a big difference," Ken Duberstein said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "I think in two years we will be talking about chief of staff John Kelly."

On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted that Reince Priebus was out as White House chief of staff and that John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, will succeed him. Kelly had been secretary of Homeland Security. He served in the Marine Corps for 45 years, ending his career as commander of the U.S. Southern Command.

"Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. Gen. Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody," Trump told reporters who had traveled with him Friday on Air Force One. "He's a great, great American. Reince is a good man."

Kelly was sworn in as the White House chief of staff Monday morning.

Duberstein said the retired general will be tasked with getting "the drama" out of the White House after a tumultuous week but adds that Trump will have to empower Kelly in his new role. The administration will want to get things done "quietly, effectively and on target," he added.

"The role of chief of staff, in essence, is to be the reality therapist for the president, to tell him what he doesn't want to hear but what he needs to know. That is important regardless of who the president is. But you also have to help him organize the White House staff so you can win on Capitol Hill," Duberstein said.

Senate Republican failed to pass a "skinny" Obamacare replacement bill on Friday, one of Trump's key promises during his campaign. Over the weekend, the president urged Republican lawmakers to stick with trying to pass a health-care bill and tweeted his impatience with Congress' inability to deliver.

Congress and the administration have also begun focusing tax reform legislation. On Friday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told CNBC that the administration wants the biggest and most aggressive tax reform that can pass. He said passing tax reform by the end of the year is "absolutely doable."

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.