White House chief of staff John Kelly attended the daily press briefing on Thursday, and over the course of 20 minutes of questions, the retired Marine general offered a master class in how to win friends and influence countries.
Kelly openly disagreed with Republican lawmakers without insulting them, he chided the press for what he called "inaccurate" stories without alienating or singling out specific reporters, and he addressed a number of major foreign policy challenges without tearing up delicate alliances.
As Trump struggles to move beyond a series of seemingly self-inflicted political headaches, Kelly's performance at the lectern Thursday offered a different example of how Trump might approach U.S. allies, members of Congress and even the news media, and potentially advance his agenda.
Asked about Trump's recent tweets about border policy, in which the president claimed that Democrats "don't care about safety for U.S.A." Kelly began his answer by saying, "I believe that honest men and women can disagree on anything politically or otherwise.
"There are certainly people in our country that have the opinion that open borders or near-open borders are fine; people should be able to come and go. There are others, myself included -- you can bet the president -- but I think the majority of Americans, feel as though security on the borders is important. Now, how you achieve that is a different story."
Kelly held firmly to the idea of securing the border with "a physical barrier." But in the same answer, the retired general took his answer in a different direction from the president, who has long vilified Mexico.
Kelly praised the Mexican military, which has fought a decades-long war on drug cartels at great human cost. "Mexico and Central America suffer more from our drug demand, and do more, in many ways, to stop that drug flow than we do in our own country," he said.
Here, Kelly acknowledged two big-picture truths that Trump seems loathe to admit: Firstly, that Americans' demand for drugs fuels the Mexican drug trade, and secondly, that citizens of other countries have suffered far worse at the hands of drug cartels than have Americans.
Kelly also fielded questions about two of Trump's recent targets in Congress, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.