I haven’t been the biggest fan of Steve Bannon’s since I started seeing his true colors a couple of years ago. It’s not his ideology; I agree with him more often than not, though his alt-right leanings have been a concern. I didn’t care for the way he goes about getting his agenda done. It’s as important for him to win his way as it is for him to win at all. One needs at least a little narcissism to be successful in politics, but Bannon tends to take it to the extreme. It’s been his greatest strength, yet ultimately it will be the thing that will take him down.
Has that already happened? Has he been “taken down” by recent revelations that he threw out insults about the President’s son and accusations at the President himself?
If anyone else close to President Trump said the things that Bannon, said, there would be no way for them to bounce back. With Bannon, it’s too early to tell if he’s done. Just as he did during the campaign and attempted to do in the early days of the administration, Bannon masterfully uses bad news to act as a springboard from which to bounce back up higher than he was before. This is why he has so much affection for leaks to the media. He used them during the campaign to distract the press from other issues. For example, every time buzz ramped up about candidate Trump needing to release his tax returns, some other more interesting controversy sprung up. Attacks on Ted Cruz’s father, releasing the “John Barron” tapes, and leaking lewd photos of Melania Trump all happened when cries were at their loudest for Trump to release his tax returns. As a result of all three moves, the tax question faded from discussion.
He attempted to do the same thing while with the administration, but with little apparent success. This is almost certainly why he was fired. White House leaks slowed down dramatically after he left.
I’m not suggesting he intended the quotes in Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury, to create the stir that it has caused. When he made the remarks, he was in a much better position to weather the repercussions, so he let his ego take his mouth too far. Nevertheless, he DID intend for his words to go public and demonstrate his boldness. Now, he has to backtrack. Here’s why:
His agenda through Trump… for now
Steve Bannon wants to be something bigger than he is. Whether that means President of the United States or a force behind the scenes is unknown, but his ambition is not to lead Breitbart. He wants to be the king, the kingmaker, and/or the king’s puppet-master.
For now, the path to achieve his goals is to support President Trump. Despite the President declaring yesterday that Bannon had “lost his mind,” don’t expect his former chief strategist to hit back in any way against the President. Bannon’s plan has always been to isolate the President from everyone else, even those in his family. He feels (or at least felt at one point) he can put a wedge between the President and those closest to him by playing to Trump’s ego. It’s worked from time to time, but Bannon underestimated the President’s attachment to other advisers, particularly those in his family.
What’s the point of it all? Does he just love and admire the President so much he wants him all to himself? No. The President has been and always will be nothing but a tool for Bannon. He has an agenda he wants pushed forward and the best person to open the doors the widest for Bannon to ram his agenda through is Donald Trump.
Getting him into the White House wasn’t the end game. It was the first major move.
Getting evicted from the White House didn’t derail Bannon. It made him change his strategy, but that strategy still includes President Trump. If the rift that was created by the book continues much longer, we may see Bannon referencing Trump’s agenda rather than the President himself, but for now he’s going to continue supporting the President and the President alone. He will paint him as a man who shares Bannon’s vision. Over time, he will claim more and more ownership of that agenda until a triggering event happens.
What’s the trigger?
At some point in the near future, President Trump will do something that allegedly goes against the “Make America Great Again” agenda. I suspected it would be signing DACA amnesty into law, but blowback from his quotes in the book may force Bannon to delay until the next anti-agenda move the President makes.
Bannon’s plan comes in three stages. First, he has to support the President which he is doing now. Then, he has to support the agenda and start distancing himself from the President, claiming the President’s advisers are pushing him in the wrong direction. The last stage will be a complete reversal and all out war. He will say he made a mistake with President Trump, that he wasn’t the man he thought he was, and that the agenda needs a new leader. He will be that leader.
Will it work?
Had the Roy Moore allegations never come out, I would say that Bannon’s plan was likely to work. He had a narrative built perfectly around the notion that he was the true champion for making America great again. This is why he said what he did for Wolff’s book. At the time of the interview, he was looking to be in much better position than he is now.
Does that mean he’s done? No, but he has a lot more maneuvering to do before he can truly start claiming the power he believes he deserves.
Steve Bannon will either go down in history as a master strategist who pulled a series of trick plays that won him the game, or he won’t go down in history at all. His trajectory is currently pointed towards the latter, but it’s still going to be important to watch him. Whether he rises or falls, he’s going to take a lot of people with him.