Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bannon's Departure Signals A New Season For The Trumpanzee Reality Show


The new season will likely divert viewers from reality with an epic brawl between Bannon/Mercer and their racist nationalists in one corner and Kushner/Cohn and their greed-obsessed kleptocrats in the other. Ratings could be higher than Game of Thrones, which is starting to feel a little long in the tooth with the zombiefication of Viserion Sunday night. Does Greg Sargent's Washington Post headline from early yesterday sound like a teaser for the next season of what? With or without Bannon, Trump will likely get a lot worse. Here’s what to watch for next. He then asserts that now that Bannon "has been booted from the White House, the political press is salivating at the prospect of a public struggle between Bannon as outsider and the 'globalists' who remain inside the White House. Bannon now rails that his ouster means the Trump presidency as he conceived of it is 'over,' and vows to use Breitbart to pressure the administration into hewing to the 'economic nationalist' agenda that (he maintains) the globalists may now derail. But looming in the near future are some major flash points that will test whether Bannon’s departure actually heralds any kind of new direction for President Trump. Here’s a partial rundown:
Arizona speech. Trump is set to hold a rally Tuesday night in Arizona. That was the setting for the festival of hate, lies and xenophobia otherwise known as his main campaign speech on immigration. Little has changed since: Trump recently embraced a plan to slash legal immigration and in the process has recently amplified more lies about the impact that low-skilled immigration has on U.S. workers and about the degree to which immigrants drain welfare benefits. If you hear more of these lies about immigration tomorrow-- and in coming days-- we’ll see little has changed post-Bannon.

New rhetoric about race. Meanwhile, some Republicans have urged Trump to use the Arizona rally to sound a conciliatory, unifying tone, after his refusal to unambiguously condemn white supremacy in the wake of the Charlottesville violence. But Bannon internally urged Trump not to back down on this point, arguing that he shouldn’t capitulate to pressure from the media. What Trump says tomorrow will tell us a lot.

The fate of the “dreamers.” The Trump administration faces a tough decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which currently shields around 800,000 people brought here illegally as children from deportation, while granting them permits to work. The White House won’t say whether Trump will cancel the program. If he does not, a coalition of states will sue to get it overturned, and the question then will be whether Trump will instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to defend the program in court.

Incredibly, the New York Times reports that Bannon had privately urged Trump not to show flexibility toward the dreamers, arguing that this would buy no goodwill for Trump from Democrats. (It’s always, always, always just about Trump, and the question of whether it is humane or just to scrap protections for hundreds of thousands of people brought here as kids, through no fault of their own, is beside the point entirely.) Trump’s decision on DACA will be revealing.

Joe Arpaio’s pardon. If Trump goes through with pardoning former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, an authoritarian racist with a fondness for dabbling in birtherism and a history of reprehensible abuses toward Latinos, that will speak for itself.

Afghanistan. Trump is reportedly set to expand our engagement in Afghanistan by several thousand troops, and the New York Times reports that Bannon’s departure tips the balance in favor of those who, unlike Bannon, favor a more interventionist military posture abroad. This is partly a reflection of Bannon’s “America first” foreign policy nationalism. But as Ben Smith notes, it’s more than that: Bannon has long dreamed of achieving a cross-racial political realignment of working people via a combination of protectionist trade policy, ramped-up spending at home, tighter immigration restrictions, and bringing home their sons and daughters from foreign wars.

Trump, too, campaigned on a similar narrative built of these same intertwined themes, vaguely suggesting he would be less inclined toward military adventurism abroad than bipartisan Washington elites tend to be. So it will be very telling if Trump departs from Bannonism in this area while retaining its hostility toward immigration. Which brings us to...

Trade, infrastructure and taxes. We have been told endlessly that the appeal of Trump/Bannon “populist economic nationalism” depends in part on Trump’s willingness to break from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s orthodox Republicanism on economic policy and the safety net. But Bannon reportedly urged Republicans to support the GOP health bill, which would have slashed Medicaid for millions, including untold numbers of Trump voters, while delivering the rich a huge tax cut. In short, Bannon went all in with Ryanism when it really counted.

Now Bannonism will be tested again. We are told Bannon wanted Trump to adopt pro-worker protectionist policies; we know he has long talked of huge infrastructure spending; and word was leaked that he pushed for a tax hike on the rich. But we never saw the meat of any of these policies, making it hard to judge what the Bannonist agenda is really supposed to amount to, beyond the stepped-up deportations, the immigration restrictionism and the thinly disguised Muslim ban, areas in which (surprise) we have seen concrete policies. At some point, we may see plans from Trump and the GOP on trade, infrastructure and tax reform. If so, you’d think the now-unshackled Bannon will be unsparing in his criticism of them where they fail working people and benefit elites, and in so doing will finally reveal what the Bannon agenda really looks like in these areas. Right?

The most likely outcome: Trump will remain fully in thrall to Bannonism’s impulses on immigration and race while failing to offer anything on trade or infrastructure that actually benefits workers-- or anything that seriously challenges conventionally plutocratic GOP priorities on taxes.
Sargent left off the expected endorsement for an extremist lunatic-- Kelli Ward-- against Republican incumbent Jeff Flake at Trump's phony hate rally tonight (for which he's paying to fill the seats).

Bannon and his backers may hate Flake and encourage Trump to destroy him, but who they really hate is Paul Ryan and they are already plotting to defeat him in 2018, even if it means seeing a charismatic anti-fascist progressive, Randy Bryce, win the southeast Wisconsin House seat!

Anyway, for those keeping track, Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman pieced together the actual story on how the Regime offed Bannon, something that was part of the deal Trump was forced to agree to when he begged General Kelly to take the chief of staff job for his crumbling administration. Kelly and Bannon worked out an amicable departure in July, scheduled for a month hence.
But as Mr. Trump struggled last week to contain a growing public furor over his response to a deadly, race-fueled melee in Virginia, Mr. Bannon clashed with Mr. Kelly over how the president should respond. Give no ground to your critics, Mr. Bannon urged the president, with characteristic truculence.

At the same time, New York real estate investor friends told Mr. Trump that the situation with Mr. Bannon was untenable: Steve Roth on Monday, Tom Barrack on Tuesday and Richard LeFrak on Wednesday.

By Thursday, after Mr. Bannon undercut American policy toward North Korea in an interview published by a left-leaning magazine, Mr. Trump himself had concluded that Mr. Bannon was too much of a liability.

By Friday, when he was forced from his job as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Mr. Bannon had found himself wholly isolated inside a White House where he once operated with such autonomy that he reported only to the president himself.

Bannon’s opponents had long argued that he inflated his importance in White House debates and took more than his fair share of credit in plotting Mr. Trump’s victory. But he was someone with whom the president, for the most part, had long enjoyed spending time.

The two men, whose friendship was cemented during the two and a half months in which Mr. Bannon helped rescue Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, reinforced each other’s rough-around-the-edges tendencies. Both could be gratuitously foul-mouthed, viciously cutting to their enemies and unapologetically politically incorrect. “Dude, he’s Archie Bunker,” Mr. Bannon would say with fondness when talking about Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bannon fed Mr. Trump’s paranoid streak and shared the president’s penchant for believing in conspiracies. He viewed not just intelligence agencies but most of government as stocked with a devious bureaucratic underbelly, the “deep state.” Mr. Trump, who has never worked in government, eagerly adopted that view.

Mr. Bannon was notorious for maintaining his own, shadowy presence within the White House. He would frequently skip meetings where policy was discussed, injecting his views into the process in other ways, according to two administration officials. He did not use a computer, preferring to have paper printed and handed to his assistant to stay outside the formal decision-making process.

Mr. Bannon favored a culture similar to the one Mr. Trump brought with him from the business world to the White House-- a flat structure with blurred lines of responsibility and competing power centers. And early on Mr. Bannon benefited from that structure, sitting at the top, free to slip unvetted materials to the president without a gatekeeper to get past.

...Ideological differences devolved into caustic personality clashes. Perhaps nowhere was the mutual disgust thicker than between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Bannon openly complained to White House colleagues that he resented how Ms. Trump would try to undo some of the major policy initiatives that he and Mr. Trump agreed were important to the president’s economic nationalist agenda, like withdrawing from the Paris climate accords. In this sense, he was relieved when Mr. Kelly took over and put in place a structure that kept other aides from freelancing.

“Those days are over when Ivanka can run in and lay her head on the desk and cry,” he told multiple people.

Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, who had helped oust Mr. Kelly’s predecessor, whom they saw as ineffective, also told people that they wanted a new system for the same reason.

Mr. Bannon made little secret of the fact that he believed “Javanka,” as he referred to the couple behind their backs, had naïve political instincts and were going to alienate Mr. Trump’s core coalition of white working-class voters.

He told White House colleagues including the president that too many conservative Republicans in Congress would balk if Mr. Trump took their advice and showed more flexibility on immigration, particularly toward young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

He also advised that ideological softening would buy the president no good will from Democrats or independent voters, whom Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump believe Mr. Trump still has a chance of reaching.

“They hate the very mention of his name,” Mr. Bannon told them. “There is no constituency for this.”

His advice for the president: “You’ve got the base. And you grow the base by getting” things done.

Mr. Bannon’s disdain for General McMaster also accelerated his demise. The war veteran has never quite clicked with the president, but other West Wing staff members recoiled at a series of smears against General McMaster by internet allies of Mr. Bannon. The strategist denied involvement, but he also did not speak out against them.

By the time Charlottesville erupted, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump had a powerful ally in Mr. Kelly, who shared their belief that Mr. Trump’s first statement blaming “many sides” for the deadly violence needed to be amended.

Mr. Bannon vigorously objected. He told Mr. Kelly that if Mr. Trump delivered a second, more contrite statement it would do him no good, with either the public or the Washington press corps, which he denigrated as a “Pretorian guard” protecting the Democrats’ consensus that Mr. Trump is a race-baiting demagogue. Mr. Trump could grovel, beg for forgiveness, even get down on his knees; it would never work, Mr. Bannon maintained.

“They’re going to say two things: It’s too late and it’s not enough,” Mr. Bannon told Mr. Kelly.

In truth, long before Charlottesville, Mr. Trump had begun losing patience. The arrival of Mr. Kelly to play precisely the gatekeeping role that would stymie aides like Mr. Bannon hastened his departure.

The president believed that Mr. Bannon had been leaking unauthorized stories about infighting in the administration for months before he ultimately took action.

Mr. Trump was irritated by a book, Devil’s Bargain, that portrayed Mr. Bannon as a brilliant political Svengali but put Mr. Trump in a supporting role... Bannon suggested timing the departure to Aug. 14, which was a day after his one-year anniversary working for Mr. Trump on the campaign. It made sense to everyone.

Mr. Bannon’s physical appearance was crumbling, and his mood swings had become pronounced.

In late July, after a weekend with Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who finances some of his projects, Mr. Bannon told him, “I dread going back” to the White House.

But after Charlottesville, Mr. Bannon maintained that an Aug. 14 exit would look like part of the president’s response to the violence. He did not want that, and others were understanding. So they discussed moving the date to around Labor Day weekend, although two administration officials said Mr. Bannon sought to entirely renegotiate the terms of his departure.

Then came Mr. Bannon’s unguarded comments to the American Prospect, published on Wednesday evening. He denigrated some colleagues, specifically identified one that he was going to see fired and said of striking North Korea, “There’s no military solution here, they got us”-- a direct contradiction to the message Mr. Trump had been sending. Mr. Bannon could buy no more time.
One more thing-- a little Gabriel Sherman reporting in Trump's least favorite magazine. "Bannon," he wrote, "was calling into the editorial meeting at Breitbart News, rallying his troops to continue the battles he waged inside the White House. 'We have a duty to the country to be the vanguard of The Movement,' he told his staff, according to one person on the call. Bannon’s main targets are the West Wing’s coterie of New York Democrat 'globalists'-- Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn-- as well as the 'hawks,' comprised of National Security Adviser H.R McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell. 'He wants to beat their ideas into submission,' Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told me. 'Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.' The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners."
[T]he next phase has already begun. On Sunday, the website’s lead story was based on a Daily Mail report that said Ivanka was behind Bannon’s removal. “Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed out Bannon because of his ‘far-right views’ clashing with her Jewish faith,” the article noted. Another piece was headlined: “6 TIMES JAVANKA’S DISPLEASURE WITH POTUS LEAKED TO PRESS.” In his feud with Kushner, Bannon may have a powerful ally: Reince Priebus, also recently departed from the White House with a quiver of grudges. Recently, according to several sources, Bannon has told friends he wants Priebus to give his account of the James Comey firing to special prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to a source close to Priebus, the former chief of staff believes that the decision was made during an early May weekend in Bedminster, where Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller were with the president. Trump returned to the Oval Office on Monday, May 8 and told other aides he intended to fire Comey.

At Breitbart, Bannon has a brigade of similarly happy warriors. “We’re in a loud bar celebrating the return of our captain!” Breitbart’s Washington editor Matt Boyle told me on Friday night. Breitbart’s defense of Trump has so far helped keep the Russia scandal from gaining traction on the right. But that could swiftly change if Trump, under the influence of Kushner and Cohn, deviates too far from the positions he ran on. If that happens, said one high-level Breitbart staffer, “We’re prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment.”
They're also prepared, as I mentioned above, to help defeat Ryan's re-election bid. The far right fringe is, as always, filled with hatred-and-drug-fueled energy and a double dose of incoherence.

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At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Bannon's advice for the president: “You’ve got the base. And you grow the base by getting” things done.}

Seems he had one thing right strategically. Maybe the Democrats can hire him?


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