Why Betsy DeVos will make a great White House chief of staff

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In a year of daily surprises and jaw-dropping outrages, even cynical political insiders were rocked by today’s news that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will replace John Kelly as President Trump's chief of staff, after Kelly was fired in the so-called “HAM Incident.” But those of us who have watched Secretary DeVos closely for the past eighteen months understand that this is a rare stroke of genius from President Trump. Here’s why.

First, as I have often noted, DeVos has spent her career as a behind-the-scenes strategist, not an out-front advocate. Though Kelly gave an unusual number of interviews, the chief of staff role is typically one for an insider’s insider. This will fit DeVos’s background and skillset much better.

Second, presidents typically want a savvy political player in this role, and that is where DeVos excels. She and her family have supported Republican politicians and conservative causes for decades. She can now leverage the resulting relationships to get things done on Capitol Hill and in the states. (Republican governors will be especially important to the president in the run-up to the 2020 election.)

And third, thanks to her leadership on the school safety commission, she already has a working relationship with key cabinet secretaries. In fact, we pundits should have seen the school safety commission appointment—and her many meetings with the president and vice president—as a sign of things to come.

This is good news for the administration, though bad news for late-night comics and the education press. The Betsy DeVos era at the Department of Education: February 7, 2017–April 1, 2018. Felix dies Aprilis Stulte!

 
 
Michael J. Petrilli
Michael J. Petrilli is the President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.