The sight of United States President Donald Trump squabbling with his former strategist Steve Bannon is a sight to behold. It seems the two men who engineered the “populist” takeover of the White House are rather less popular with one another than they used to be one year ago as they prepared to misrule the world.
First, let’s correct the record. You may have been living under the mistaken impression that Bannon was an influential figure in Trumpworld. This is probably because Bannon was chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign and was considered the most influential political adviser inside the West Wing in the first few months of Trump’s presidency.
You probably continued to delude yourself about Bannon’s sway even after he was pushed out of the White House when you heard Trump saying this in the Rose Garden less than three months ago: “Well, I have a very good relationship, as you know, with Steve Bannon. Steve’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I like Steve a lot.”
Like so many things that Trump says, this is probably not true.
Because as we discovered from Trump’s own statement to the press on Wednesday (not a tweet), Bannon was in fact a braggadocious nobody who failed in life and has now gone insane.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating 17 candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party. Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”
It’s one thing for Bannon, a notoriously undisciplined blowhard, to settle scores with Trump’s family and friends in the latest napalm-fuelled book from Michael Wolff (no relation). It’s entirely another thing for Trump to respond in kind. One man is a washed out political hack. The other is the 45th president of the United States. You might think the trigger for Trump’s outburst was Bannon saying that the campaign’s meeting with Russian government intermediaries in 2016 was “treasonous, or unpatriotic ...”. That meeting included Trump’s son Donald Jr and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
But then again, you’d be wrong. The trigger for the outburst is in fact Trump’s trigger-happy nature. It was, after all, just one day after he had bragged about being ready to launch his nukes at North Korea with a nuclear button that is so much bigger and so much more radioactive than Kim Jong-un’s.
As Hillary Clinton put it so memorably, Trump is too easily baited to be anywhere near the nuclear codes. He’s also too easily baited to be anywhere near a press release.
The last time someone nailed Trump quite so exquisitely, it was the closing phase of the Republican primaries that Bannon obviously missed because of his own incompetence.
Trump himself continues to describe his own conduct whenever he seeks to trash his opponents. It is hard, but not impossible to condemn Bannon for pretending to be at war with the media while spending your time live-tweeting cable TV and yapping with friendly anchors from Fox News or passing reporters from the New York Times.
It is also hard, but not impossible to accuse Bannon of losing his mind when you are on a roll.
What does the Trump-Bannon bust-up mean for us all? First, this must surely qualify as a Guinness world record end to our new year’s hopes for a return to sanity or normality in 2018.
But at the same time as dashing our hopes, it also must fill us with glee at the likely resurrection of that other avatar of slash-and-burn Trumpism: Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci. For who but the Mooch would accuse Bannon of promoting himself instead of serving the great leader? Scaramucci has been telling friends that Trump wants him back in the White House, which would be a wonderful New Year’s gift to column-writers the world over.
In the meantime, we have this unsubtle back-and-forth between the Mooch and the cookie-loving Donald Jr on Twitter after the Trump-Bannon bust-up. “Minus the foul language ‘The Mooch’ pretty much nailed it”, said the president’s son.
Minus the national interest and any shred of presidential decorum, this would be an epically incendiary turn of events. Let’s prepare for the worst and hope for the best in this early dawn of Trump’s new year.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd
Richard Wolffe is a British-American journalist, political commentator, and author of several best selling books.