Is Steve Bannon in Trump’s Dog House?
Storm clouds are gathering over the White House, and its resident lightning rod, Steve Bannon, might be in trouble. The first signs of a building storm popped up last week when Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was removed from the National Security Council. And then, reports of infighting began seeping out of the giant doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bannon’s ideological and stylistic differences with Jared Kushner, Trump’s increasingly influential son-in-law, have led to a number of behind-closed-doors confrontations. And in an interview with the New York Post published on Tuesday, Trump indicated a personnel shake-up could be looming.
“I like Steve, but you have to remember, he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said in an interview with the Post’s Michael Goodwin. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Bannon was largely responsible for reviving Trump’s sinking campaign last fall, and his ethos has been evident in a number of Trump’s governing decisions: the doom-and-gloom “American carnage” speech on Inauguration Day; the executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven (then six) predominantly Muslim countries; the combative press conferences with the media–a.k.a. “America’s enemy.” Bannon has infused the Trump doctrine with his distinct flavor; Trump’s anti-elite message comes straight from Bannon’s playbook.
Meanwhile Kushner, a quiet, media-shy 36-year-old who grew up with a millionaire father (not to mention has a billionaire father-in-law), is gaining influence in Trump’s orbit. Bannon reportedly told Kushner that the reason the two can’t reach a compromise on certain issues is because “you’re a Democrat.” After the spat attracted media attention–an unwanted distraction at a time when Trump is dealing with rising conflicts with Syria and North Korea–the president told his two aides to figure things out.
Many attribute Bannon’s waning influence not only to his arguments with Kushner, but with his governing vision, which proved effective during the campaign, but has not resulted in many legislative successes. Bannon’s anti-immigrant, anti-establishment leanings certainly influenced the travel ban, which is now held up in court for the second time. And the failed health care attempt–too populist for hard-right conservatives and too cheap for moderates–was also smothered in Bannon’s fingerprints.
Kushner, on the other hand, has long been viewed as a moderating force, a check on Bannon’s more unsavory tendencies. For weeks, the tension between the two, if there was any, was hidden behind a host of distractions and the media-sucking gaffes of press secretary Sean Spicer and counselor Kellyanne Conway. But the Bannon-Kushner feud is spilling into the public eye, and the image-conscious president has taken notice. As Trump succinctly put it in his interview with the Post: “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”