Friday, January 27, 2017


It's easy to take Steve Bannon's "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut" hissyfit at face value -- i.e., as a dominance challenge on behalf of his boss -- but this bit of shameless flackery by Mike Allen at Axios suggests that something else is going on:

White House and Hill GOP leaders are astonished by the unambiguous, far-reaching power of Steve Bannon and policy guru Stephen Miller over, well, just about everything.

* They wrote the Inaugural speech and set in fast motion a series of moves to cement Trump as an America-first Nationalist.

*They maneuvered to get more key allies inside the White House and positioned for top agency jobs.

*They wrote many of the executive orders, sometimes with little input from others helping with the transition.

* They egged on Trump to take a combative approach with the media, China, Mexico and critics.

* And Bannon punctuated the week with a full-throated, Trump-pleasing bashing of the media.
Allen, as was obvious to anyone who read him in his Politico days, is regularly willing to forgo journalism in order to be a publicist for some of his sources. I think he's doing that now to convey the message that the Bannon wing of the White House is winning and the Reince Priebus establishmentarian wing is losing. "White House and Hill GOP leaders are astonished by the unambiguous, far-reaching power of Steve Bannon" seems like an attempt to make something true by asserting it.

Here's where this becomes obvious:
Pre-conventional wisdom: A conservative leader told Axios' Jonathan Swan that Reince Priebus' people were feeling like they "won November and December," having filled the White House with so many loyalists. The spin was that Reince was outmaneuvering Bannon and would be the real power source. But now it's dawning on them, as Trump makes his early moves, that maybe they spoke too soon.
There's some truth here -- Bannon has been throwing his weight around since the inaugural, although that's meant that the administration has tripped over its own feet a number of times. But I'm puzzled at how Allen can say that Priebus and his people "filled the White House with so many loyalists" and also that Bannon and Miller "maneuvered to get more key allies inside the White House and positioned for top agency jobs" -- isn't that a contradiction? In any case, I question why Bannon felt the need to instigate the "keep its mouth shut" fight with The New York Times in the first place -- clearly he thought it would impress the boss, but if Bannon is as powerful as Mike Allen says he is, why does he need to do that? Doesn't the boss like him already?

I believe that the battle for Trump's brain is ongoing, that the Bannon and Priebus wings are going to keep fighting, and that now we're coming to the time in the presidency when actually knowing how to advance legislation confers an advantage -- one that Bannon and his bomb-throwers don't have. I wonder whether some of the recent leaks about Trump's own tantrums were meant to shame the people --probably Bannon and his crew -- who encourage the president's rage (about crowd size, about vote totals, etc.).

The intramural war, in other words, rages on. I think Bannon's recent media appearances are a part of that war.


Never Ben Better said...

Hopefully the war will continue to rage on for a good long time, till the entire administration lies wounded and howling in the rubble of their dreams.

Arjay said...

Of course, Scarborough counterattacked for Priebus and the locals on his show. He warned Trump any more Bannon outbursts and Trump's admin will crash and burn. It's like the dweebs against the bullies in high school or something. Normally, I would be entertained but I'm too disgusted by it all.

Jack said...

Fun Fact: Mike Allen's dad is Gary Allen, ultra-right author of *None Dare Call It Conspiracy,* basically the Alex Jones of the 1970s.

rclz said...

Isn't Bannon just Lee Atwater 2.0?