Friday, January 05, 2018

The Trump Mad House Goes After Bannon


The other day I suggested that there’s nothing left for Bannon on the public stage other than as a witness for the prosecution in the various Putin-Gate investigations and trials. With the Mercers having very publicly pulled the plug on him, there’s nothing left for another delusional figure in TrumpWorld who thought he could cast the wily-- albeit low IQ-- Trump aside. The lunatic neo-fascist Mercer daughter: "I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected. My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements." She cut off the funding for Bannon’s bodyguards. And there’s a Breitbart discussion discussing-- encouraged by Trump who wants Bannon pulverized-- to get rid of Bannon. Janet Hook, writing for the Wall Street Journal and Drudge are both asserting that Breitbart CEO Larry Solov and Susie Breitbart are being pressured to dump Bannon. Even Rush Limbaugh piled on against Bannon. Dana Loesch too.

By Thursday night Trump’s lawyers were trying to prevent Henry Holt from publishing Michael Wolff’s Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House. Wolff’s story in Thursday’s Hollywood Reporter, You Can’t Make This Shit Up-- My Year Inside Trump’s White House, already blew the top off the whole scandal, book or no book. Trump seems to have accidentally given Wolff White House access for a year-- not understanding what he was doing-- which caused top Trumpanzee aides that they could talk with him on the record for his book. “The nature of the comedy,” he wrote, “it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment-- with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.”

A new president typically surrounds himself with a small group of committed insiders and loyalists. But few on the Trump team knew him very well-- most of his advisors had been with him only since the fall. Even his family, now closely gathered around him, seemed nonplussed. "You know, we never saw that much of him until he got the nomination," Eric Trump's wife, Lara, told one senior staffer. If much of the country was incredulous, his staff, trying to cement their poker faces, were at least as confused.

Their initial response was to hawkishly defend him-- he demanded it-- and by defending him they seemed to be defending themselves. Politics is a game, of course, of determined role-playing, but the difficulties of staying in character in the Trump White House became evident almost from the first day.

"You can't make this shit up," Sean Spicer, soon to be portrayed as the most hapless man in America, muttered to himself after his tortured press briefing on the first day of the new administration, when he was called to justify the president's inaugural crowd numbers-- and soon enough, he adopted this as a personal mantra. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, had, shortly after the announcement of his appointment in November, started to think he would not last until the inauguration. Then, making it to the White House, he hoped he could last a respectable year, but he quickly scaled back his goal to six months. Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump's public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway's fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)

Steve Bannon tried to gamely suggest that Trump was mere front man and that he, with plan and purpose and intellect, was, more reasonably, running the show-- commanding a whiteboard of policies and initiatives that he claimed to have assembled from Trump's off-the-cuff ramblings and utterances. His adoption of the Saturday Night Live sobriquet "President Bannon" was less than entirely humorous. Within the first few weeks, even rote conversations with senior staff trying to explain the new White House's policies and positions would turn into a body-language ballet of eye-rolling and shrugs and pantomime of jaws dropping. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don't-blame-me eye roll.

The surreal sense of the Trump presidency was being lived as intensely inside the White House as out. Trump was, for the people closest to him, the ultimate enigma. He had been elected president, that through-the-eye-of-the-needle feat, but obviously, he was yet … Trump. Indeed, he seemed as confused as anyone to find himself in the White House, even attempting to barricade himself into his bedroom with his own lock over the protests of the Secret Service.

There was some effort to ascribe to Trump magical powers. In an early conversation-- half comic, half desperate-- Bannon tried to explain him as having a particular kind of Jungian brilliance. Trump, obviously without having read Jung, somehow had access to the collective unconscious of the other half of the country, and, too, a gift for inventing archetypes: Little Marco … Low-Energy Jeb … the Failing New York Times. Everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here. He's intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base. But there was palpable relief, of an Emperor's New Clothes sort, when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg-- fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else-- came back into the fold and said, widely, "He's just a fucking fool."

Part of that foolishness was his inability to deal with his own family. In a way, this gave him a human dimension. Even Donald Trump couldn't say no to his kids. "It's a littleee, littleee complicated …" he explained to Priebus about why he needed to give his daughter and son-in-law official jobs. But the effect of their leadership roles was to compound his own boundless inexperience in Washington, creating from the outset frustration and then disbelief and then rage on the part of the professionals in his employ.

The men and women of the West Wing, for all that the media was ridiculing them, actually felt they had a responsibility to the country. "Trump," said one senior Republican, "turned selfish careerists into patriots." Their job was to maintain the pretense of relative sanity, even as each individually came to the conclusion that, in generous terms, it was insane to think you could run a White House without experience, organizational structure or a real purpose.

On March 30, after the collapse of the health care bill, 32-year-old Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff, the effective administration chief of the West Wing, a stalwart political pro and stellar example of governing craft, walked out. Little more than two months in, she quit. Couldn't take it anymore. Nutso. To lose your deputy chief of staff at the get-go would be a sign of crisis in any other administration, but inside an obviously exploding one it was hardly noticed.

While there might be a scary national movement of Trumpers, the reality in the White House was stranger still: There was Jared and Ivanka, Democrats; there was Priebus, a mainstream Republican; and there was Bannon, whose reasonable claim to be the one person actually representing Trumpism so infuriated Trump that Bannon was hopelessly sidelined by April. "How much influence do you think Steve Bannon has over me? Zero! Zero!" Trump muttered and stormed. To say that no one was in charge, that there were no guiding principles, not even a working org chart, would again be an understatement. "What do these people do?" asked everyone pretty much of everyone else.

"Sloppy Steve?"

The competition to take charge, which, because each side represented an inimical position to the other, became not so much a struggle for leadership, but a near-violent factional war. Jared and Ivanka were against Priebus and Bannon, trying to push both men out. Bannon was against Jared and Ivanka and Priebus, practicing what everybody thought were dark arts against them. Priebus, everybody's punching bag, just tried to survive another day. By late spring, the larger political landscape seemed to become almost irrelevant, with everyone focused on the more lethal battles within the White House itself. This included screaming fights in the halls and in front of a bemused Trump in the Oval Office (when he was not the one screaming himself), together with leaks about what Russians your opponents might have been talking to.

Reigning over all of this was Trump, enigma, cipher and disruptor. How to get along with Trump-- who veered between a kind of blissed-out pleasure of being in the Oval Office and a deep, childish frustration that he couldn't have what he wanted? Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. "I want a win. I want a win. Where's my win?" he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, "like a child." A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against.

One of these frequent callers was Rupert Murdoch, who before the election had only ever expressed contempt for Trump. Now Murdoch constantly sought him out, but to his own colleagues, friends and family, continued to derisively ridicule Trump: "What a fucking moron," said Murdoch after one call.

With the Comey firing, the Mueller appointment and murderous White House infighting, by early summer Bannon was engaged in an uninterrupted monologue directed to almost anyone who would listen. It was so caustic, so scabrous and so hilarious that it might form one of the great underground political treatises.

By July, Jared and Ivanka, who had, in less than six months, traversed from socialite couple to royal family to the most powerful people in the world, were now engaged in a desperate dance to save themselves, which mostly involved blaming Trump himself. It was all his idea to fire Comey! "The daughter," Bannon declared, "will bring down the father."

Priebus and Spicer were merely counting down to the day-- and every day seemed to promise it would be the next day-- when they would be out.

And, indeed, suddenly there were the 11 days of Anthony Scaramucci.

Scaramucci, a minor figure in the New York financial world, and quite a ridiculous one, had overnight become Jared and Ivanka's solution to all of the White House's management and messaging problems. After all, explained the couple, he was good on television and he was from New York-- he knew their world. In effect, the couple had hired Scaramucci-- as preposterous a hire in West Wing annals as any-- to replace Priebus and Bannon and take over running the White House.

There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump's family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.

Most succinctly, no one expected him to survive Mueller. Whatever the substance of the Russia "collusion," Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)

There was more: Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he'd repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories-- now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions-- he just couldn't stop saying something.

By summer's end, in something of a historic sweep-- more usual for the end of a president's first term than the end of his first six months-- almost the entire senior staff, save Trump's family, had been washed out: Michael Flynn, Katie Walsh, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. Even Trump's loyal, longtime body guard Keith Schiller-- for reasons darkly whispered about in the West Wing-- was out. Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, Rick Dearborn, all on their way out. The president, on the spur of the moment, appointed John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general and head of homeland security, chief of staff-- without Kelly having been informed of his own appointment beforehand. Grim and stoic, accepting that he could not control the president, Kelly seemed compelled by a sense of duty to be, in case of disaster, the adult in the room who might, if needed, stand up to the president … if that is comfort.

As telling, with his daughter and son-in-law sidelined by their legal problems, Hope Hicks, Trump's 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor. (With Melania a nonpresence, the staff referred to Ivanka as the "real wife" and Hicks as the "real daughter.") Hicks' primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season. Instead, the interview went to Fox News' Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.

As the first year wound down, Trump finally got a bill to sign. The tax bill, his singular accomplishment, was, arguably, quite a reversal of his populist promises, and confirmation of what Mitch McConnell had seen early on as the silver Trump lining: "He'll sign anything we put in front of him." With new bravado, he was encouraging partisans like Fox News to pursue an anti-Mueller campaign on his behalf. Insiders believed that the only thing saving Mueller from being fired, and the government of the United States from unfathomable implosion, is Trump's inability to grasp how much Mueller had on him and his family.

Steve Bannon was openly handicapping a 33.3 percent chance of impeachment, a 33.3 percent chance of resignation in the shadow of the 25th amendment and a 33.3 percent chance that he might limp to the finish line on the strength of liberal arrogance and weakness.

Donald Trump's small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would-- or, in many cases, should-- have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country's future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all-- 100 percent-- came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

Happy first anniversary of the Trump administration.

How some top Trumpists referred to Señor Trumpanzee when he wasn’t in the room, according to Wolff:
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin- “Idiot”
Chief economic advisor Gary Cohn- “Dumb as shit”
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster- “a dope”
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus- “Idiot”
Wolff himself wrote that “Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. . . Some thought him dyslexic; certainly his comprehension was limited. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate-- total television. But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen. He preferred to be the person talking. And he trusted his own expertise-- no matter how paltry or irrelevant-- more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.”

And this... this thing... is widely-- and legally-- considered President of the United States. His placement in the White House is absolutely the biggest foreign policy success in the long history of Russia. It’s not part of Wolff’s book but, since we’re talking about the Mad House, Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a nonpartisan who is not registered with either party, has told a dozen members of Congress who are concerned with Trump’s mental stability-- as are most Americans-- that Señor Trumpanzee “is showing signs of impairment that the average person could not see. He is becoming very unstable very quickly. There is a need for neuropsychiatric evaluation that would demonstrate his capacity to serve… As he is unraveling he seems to be losing his grip on reality and reverting to conspiracy theories. There are signs that he is going into attack mode when he is under stress. That means he has the potential to become impulsive and very volatile." Trump had that slob daughter of Huckabee’s go out an defend his mental condition and she called questions about the Trumpanzee’s state of mind "disgraceful… If he was unfit, he probably wouldn't be sitting there, wouldn't have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen.” She didn’t go into how Trump had evaluated his opponents during the campaign but she did insist that Señor T is saner than Kim Jong-un.

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At 11:28 AM, Blogger orangelion03 said...

This aint gonna end well for anybody.

Please, if there is a God, hold the disaster off until I'm in Akumal next month.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember when everyone in DC was terrified of getting on the wrong side of Bannon?

Me neither.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Richard Lyle Prescott said...


Do you think I give a fuck
If your ilk call me cuck?
Down's my glove, here I haze ya:
Your nose is drunken with rosacea.

A child’s jab? Yes, that’s true:
Whatever works, I learned from you;
Hitched three times, so much strife!
Let's get the truth, from your wives.

Told the press you grew up blue,
Liked LBJ, were liberal too:
You're a liar, trying to ball us,
Your heart cried out "Go George Wallace!"

And what is up with all those shirts?
D'ya catch a chill on seaward service?
Is the one against chest bare
Made of guilty Catholic hair?

From Goldman Sachs to Hollywood
You played it well, the money's good:
Grinning shit-faced when you meet
Master Mercer, the Ayn Rand geek.

Brietbart "news", oh so handy,
One might think it's you killed Andy:
Clear the way and take command,
Spread your lies across the land.

David Brooks, he put his pen in
Writing you're a sort of Lenin;
Is that true? Is that real?
Are we due for your Joe Steel?

Ed Gillespie must surely win!
"He's just like Trump!" was your spin;
A kiss from you will have its cost,
The People spoke and your shill lost.

Your Southern work gave us a score:
You called Trump, he went for Moore
And turned black ladies out to vote;
They hate Trump, they hope he chokes.

(Now must Mitch McConnell cower?
What’s your strength? Where’s your power?
Our country needs a brand new start,
I hope you tear yourselves apart.)

By conspiring with that nation
Trump’s sons did play at treason;
On this point we do agree,
Thanks for your veracity.

What you dished on the Exec:
That he’s really dumb as heck,
That you think he’s just a fool
Surely does no good for you.

Trump the God-King, you dared mock
And now your ship is on the rocks;
It really is quite humorous:
You screwed yourself by hubris.

Our nation's in a race you see
Twixt your views and decency:
You call it white identity
But it’s just Nazis that I see.

Your “militias” have the guns,
But we won't stop and we won't run;
We'll have the votes and here's a fact:
We have the Insurrection Act.

We really don’t give two fucks,
When your side calls us cucks;
You think you’ll cast our history?
The battle’s joined, so let us see.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Well, at least the descriptions of Trump made me laugh - Idiot, fucking idiot, moron, dumb as many of them!

The man is the greatest con artist in history. A tremendous accomplishment, actually, with historic implications. He will surely make the history books. Trump makes Madoff, king or the world's greatest Ponzi scheme, look like chump change. Where's

Are we that dumb or did Trump actually have something going to accomplish this great feat of getting elected? Sadly, it is the former. How the hell did so many Americans fall for this evil, stupid nutcase? While the surface of his b.s. was only skimmed - the press did not do its job and failed us - it was a there for all to see what a b.s. artist he has always been. Bloomberg sure said it at the convention.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

who is Sloppy Steve?

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, he won because there are 62 million americans that are Nazi dumbfucktards.
He also won because his DNC picked opponent was the worst democrat ever nominated for prez and 10 or 15 million who might have voted for Bernie said no to $HE.

Steve (bannon, miller, mnuchin?) is sloppy presumably because he had to let dickless Donnie do the imported kiddies first on his Russian oligarch buddy's private plane.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Tony Wikrent said...

How did Trump get elected. Thomas Frank has been trying to explain. Watch youtube vids of him this past year. And Mark Blyth explains there is a revolt against liberal and conservative establishments all over the world not just in USA.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Tony Wikrent said...

How did Trump get elected. Thomas Frank has been trying to explain. Watch youtube vids of him this past year. And Mark Blyth explains there is a revolt against liberal and conservative establishments all over the world not just in USA.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's also remember that the DINO-Whigs don't go after every possible vote. HER! never went to WI nor MI during the primary nor electoral campaigns (and probably not to OH nor PA either, but I haven't researched that), never saw to it that so many uncounted votes in Milwaukee and Detroit were counted, never pushed for clear and honest voting in OH and PA, and didn't support Stein in her quest to do what HER! would not: DEMAND RECOUNTS.

So screw HER! and HER! clone Gillibrand.

At 11:26 PM, Blogger boonmee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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