Bannon Off NSC: The Perversion of Palace Politics


This past Wednesday, President Trump removed Steve Bannon from his unprecedented role on the National Security Council, sending the Washington punditry into a giddy fervor about what this might mean for his position in the White House.

While it is undeniable that the move, from a PR standpoint at least, has distanced the white-supremacist in chief from the President, it remains to be seen whether this turn of events represents his ousting from the inner circle.

While many theories have been espoused about his removal from the council, from conflicts with Jared Kushner who he reportedly called a “cuck,” to the machinations of Reince Priebus to regain control of the White House, I personally endorse the theory espoused by the (failing) New York Times.

“Moreover, Mr. Bannon’s Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing’s only leading man. Several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda — and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the “President Bannon” puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter.” (via NYT)

It seems quite in keeping with his past demeanor that the President was mostly preoccupied with Bannon’s appearance as the shadow President. From his depiction on Saturday Night Live to the now-iconic cover of Time Magazine, Bannon has become the shorthand for the President’s incompetence and inability to govern. There is no way that this perception sat well with an egomaniac of Trump’s standing.

So, for those rejoicing at the symbolic value of Bannon’s removal, that this might signal some return to normalcy and procedure, I wouldn’t hold your collective breath. It seems far more likely that the move was simply a way of checking Bannon’s perceived authority in the public eye. We’re going to have to wait and see whether his influence is really diminished.

And it’s difficult to overstate that influence. Bannon has been the primary architect of Trump’s policy on pretty much everything except healthcare reform since taking office. It was Bannon who spearheaded the hasty and shoddily constructed executive orders on immigration that were so hastily identified as xenophobic nonsense by the public and the courts. It was also Bannon who made deconstruction of the administrative state the official brand of the White House, a policy initiative that has now been softened and placed in the hands of Jared Kushner. Lest we forget it was the cantankerous rambling of Bannon which identified the media as the “opposition party” and created the climate of hostility between the executive branch and journalists that have placed this administration under more media scrutiny than any in history. Bannon’s scorched-earth policy in relation to the federal government has so far been the undoing of every action taken by the White House since January.

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