“The President asked me to accept the most sensitive position in his personal entourage and to be his chief of staff to organize the White House on his behalf. I didn’t see how I could turn that down.”

With those words 36 years ago James A. Baker, III, a Republican in high standing with impeccable credentials  assumed the most powerful position in the White House and, arguably, the second  toughest job in the land next to that of  President.

The man who sought him out was Ronald Reagan—a former California governor who occupies a fairly high rank in the pantheon of former U.S. presidents.

Reagan understood what the current occupant apparently does not—that the job requires an individual who can navigate the treacherous paths of the political jungle that is Washington.

In Baker he found someone who had been schooled in politics throughout his early career serving as Finance Chair of the GOP, losing in a race to become Attorney General of Texas and then serving as Under Secretary of Commerce to Gerald Ford.

In 1981, Reagan chose Baker in spite of the fact that Baker had managed the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford in 1976 and of George Bush in 1980 —previous Reagan opponents.

Baker’s hiring also came at a similarly tumultuous time when his beleaguered predecessor, Donald T. Regan, given part of the blame for the Iran-contra scandal was forced to resign just over two years after his appointment.

Now Reince Priebus, barely six months after pledging his unswerving loyalty to President Donald Trump is gone and Marine Corps General, John F. Kelly, has taken his place.  It remains to be seen how long the newest hire—a political novice with only a short stint as Homeland Security Secretary on his resume— will last before he is also shown the door.

Kelly’s first challenge will be to exert control over an unruly staff more occupied with in-fighting than promoting Trump’s agenda which suffered its first big defeat with the collapse of the so-called “skinny repeal” health bill.

His bigger problem will be reining in a president who is not accustomed to taking advice let alone orders from anyone from somebody who has spent his career giving them.

Baker was in the hot seat for all four years of Reagan’s first term, serving with distinction during a presidency largely unmarred by scandal until Iran-Contra. And though Reagan was no stranger to politics having served effectively as California’s governor, he understood the wisdom of seeking counsel at every turn from his talented Chief of Staff.

One other military man, Gen. Alexander Haig, performed that function for another Californian, Richard Nixon, at the height of the Watergate Affair until the president’s resignation and was later Reagan’s Secretary of State briefly.

It was during that period that Haig’s imperious character went on full exhibit.

After Reagan was hospitalized in an assassination attempt, Haig gained considerable notoriety famously declaring “I am in control here” before Vice President George Bush arrived to assume command.

Haig is also remembered for his backstage role as Chief of Staff to Gerald Ford during the early months for advising Ford to pardon Richard Nixon—a controversial decision which factored in Ford’s defeat four years later by Jimmy Carter.

Aside from their radically different approaches to governance, Reagan and Trump have little in common nor for that matter has any previous modern president with the current incumbent.

For starters Reagan embraced the Republican establishment which has grown more embarrassed with every tweet and lie emanating from the Oval Office and worked well with a Democratic Congress to pass comprehensive immigration and tax reforms, among other bipartisan efforts.

This Congress shows signs of mounting exasperation with Trump, and as the 2018 elections approach many GOP members  will have decide whether to distance themselves from an increasingly out-of-touch Administration or take the ride wherever it is going.

Kelly’s task—a daunting challenge—will be to say NO to his boss who seems hell-bent on taking actions that may appease the base but which are leading to confrontations that could result in the undoing of the presidency.

One of the initial questions that remain unsolved and potentially explosive is whether Trump’s directive that all staff decisions must run through him includes Jared Kushner, son-in-law, and Advisor-in-Chief, and First Daughter, Ivanka Trump. Both have unobstructed access to the Oval Office.

Firing undisciplined and mistake-prone members of the first family may not be an option.

This applies in particular to Kushner who has license to roam far and wide off the reservation and eldest son Donald Trump, Jr. whose naiveté allowed him to be played for a fool by an enterprising Russian attorney with nothing to offer in their now infamous get-together.

Another formidable obstacle will be Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist, who doubles as Trump’s conscience and appears ready to throw anybody he dislikes under the bus as Reince Priebus and the unceremoniously dumped former Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci has learned after merely 10 days on the job!

Scaramucci’s abrupt dismissal worked out conveniently for Kelly as a display of his newly-conferred authority.  But it was foreordained after his foul-mouthed, obscenity-laced tirade aimed at Bannon and Priebus, but Priebus was already targeted by Bannon for extinction.

However, Kelly’s biggest stumbling block of all will be the president himself who seems immune to all criticism, answerable to no one, distrustful of his hand-picked cabinet members, most notably the disgraced Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, an ex-Senator now at the center of Senate investigations into obstruction of justice, and  prepared to blame the world in general for his failures.

Charged with returning some semblance of order to a chaotic White House, the new Chief of Staff may want to heed the advice of his wily predecessor, James Baker, who is credited with managing the Reagan White House nearly flawlessly:

As quoted in a recent New York Times article by columnist, Peter Baker (no relation), Baker said in his droll way, “You can focus on the ‘chief’ or you can focus on the ‘of staff.’ Those who have focused on the ‘of staff’ have done pretty well.”

Still, if Trump does not plan on listening, nothing the good General says will matter.