Ding dong Steve Bannon is gone – and all the liberal world order is cock-a-hoop. As Democrat congressman Tim Ryan said, ‘Good. He had no business being there to begin with.’ Or as Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. put it, ‘Steve Bannon should have never been a White House official.’
Maybe it is a good thing that Steve Bannon, an apocalyptic thinker better suited to Breitbart and Talk Radio agitation than real power, is gone. And yet and yet – in the craziness that is Trumpland, Bannon was the closest thing to a coherent strategic thinker in the White House. Who is there now?
Bannon had principles – mad ones, perhaps – but a thought-through worldview. I’m not convinced anybody else in the White House does. Bannon reportedly kept a list to remind the President of his campaign pledges on immigration, Obamacare and battling the global elites. His departure now raises the question: what’s happened to Trumpism? Is Trump now at war with Trumpism? And if Trump doesn’t have the movement that put him in power, what does he have?
Bannon’s departure has been expected for some time. In fact, given that he appears to have been sidelined in early April, following the US bombing of the Assad regime in Syria and his departure from the national security council, it’s remarkable that he has lasted as long as he did. He and Trump’s alliance was always a marriage of convenience. Bannon dresses like a slob; Trump cares a lot about matters sartorial. Bannon’s differences with the dapper son-in-law Jared Kushner have been well-reported – although it’s worth noting that the two men were actually quite close before and after the election. But Bannon’s influence over the administration has dwindled in the last few months. It was well-known that he was behind a lot of the leaks which have so annoyed Trump. Bannon was crucial to winning Trump the election, but in power his ability to impress Trump has decreased.
Bannon’s extraordinary interview with American Prospect earlier this week, in which he essentially dismissed Trump’s North Korean policy as a crazy distraction from the great economic war with China, suggested he knew his time was nearly up. The generals – John Kelly, H R McMaster, and James Mattis – appear to be controlling things. The generals can do message discipline, and present a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic administration. But should we comforted by that? Or is this just another sign that the Trump administration – the government of the most powerful country in the world, remember – has no idea what it is doing?