Donald Trump’s helter skelter approach to management, that he has tried to employ in governing the country, reared its ugly head again today. A major shakeup in the National Security Council has resulted in the removal of Steve Bannon, who has the title of Senior Counselor to the President. That he was appointed to the Security Council in the first place was an affront to standing political norms.
Rumors circulated long before Trump’s inauguration of a power struggle between Bannon and Reince Priebus, the current Chief of Staff. During the last months of the campaign, Bannon was brought in to salvage Trump’s faltering presidential bid. He had the support of the alt-right community, as reflected by his news site Brietbart News. Priebus represented the mainline Republican party in his role of chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Bannon appeared to have quickly gained he upper hand in the White House inner circle when he engineered his appointment, not only to the National Security Council, but also gaining a seat on its Principals Committee. All previous Presidents had been careful to maintain a strict policy of avoiding even the appearance of politicizing the NSC. This led some to speculate that Trump signed the order reorganizing the NSC without even reading it, and was unaware of the role given to Bannon.
While speculation roiled over who would eventually win out – Bannon or Priebus, a third contender in the triumvirate of power quietly entered the scene. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has assumed a far greater role within the Oval Office. Although he has no official role in the administration, he has been tasked with numerous assignments ranging from foreign policy to government re-organization. The rise of his star now looks like the diminishment of Bannon’s pre-eminence.
The role of General McMaster, Trump’s National Security Advisor, is yet to be determined in what could well be something of a palace coup. If Bannon’s ouster resulted from an ultimatum from McMaster, then the country can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Perhaps, for the first time, Trump listened to a voice of sanity.
Nonetheless, Bannon’s toxic influence of a dystopian worldview of an alt-right, isolationist America still remains in the White House. Recently reports have surfaced of his potential conflicts of interest both during the campaign and the administration regarding his role with Brietbart News, although they are peanuts compared to Trump’s own conflicts of interest.
Today’s news definitely is a loss of face for Bannon. Many rejoice that he has been taken down a notch. But Bannon would be foolish to count on loyalty from Trump, who desperately wants to divert the country away from the investigation to his ties to Russia.
The ridiculous “Desperately Seeking Susan” Rice’s actions while serving as National Security Advisor to President Obama are evidence of the panic that appears to be engulfing the Trump administration. Trump only wants to save himself, and would willingly throw Bannon overboard if he thought it would help his sinking ship.
Bannon’s ouster from the NSC certainly provides the sparkly object to divert the media’s attention, at least for one news cycle. Now the speculation can begin. Does this represent the first step in Bannon’s eventual downfall from grace, or is it a simply a cynical political ploy? Only time will tell.