Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a “cuck” and a “globalist” during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast.I think it's obvious that Team Jared leaked this to infuriate the president, who dotes on his son-in-law. But I could imagine Team Bannon leaking it, to make Bannon look like a hero to the deplorables, if I didn't know that he'd been persuaded to stay in his job by Rebekah Mercer, as Politico reported last night.
The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been “nonstop” in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. It’s been an “open secret” that Bannon and Kushner often clash “face-to-face,” according to senior officials.
One official said Bannon has lately complained about Kushner trying to “shiv him and push him out the door” and likened him to a fifth column in the White House.
“[Steve] recently vented to us about Jared being a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’…He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative,’” the administration official told The Daily Beast.
Bannon might be fired after this "cuck" story -- or maybe he'll quit. (An NBC News story quotes Joe Scarborough: "Bannon himself has been extraordinarily frustrated inside the White House, at one point saying, 'If my talents aren't needed here, I can take them somewhere else.'")
What happens if Bannon goes? Will Jared and Ivanka succeed in turning their father into a corporatist Democrat? Is that even what they want? And if it is what they want, can Poppa give up all the nutball ideas he's picked up over the years from Fox News and, more recently, from Bannon? And how does this moderation happen in an administration stocked with people like Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, and Scott Pruitt? Is the Golden Couple going after those folks too?
What if they try to turn Trump into a person who no longer appeals to cheering mobs of deplorables, who downplays the wall and the Muslim ban and becomes sensitive to LGBT rights and climate change? Would Poppa go along? I suppose that would work for him if they could make him seem like a conventionally effective president, one who might appeal to current skeptics -- but that certainly isn't going to happen, because he knows nothing about governing and neither do they. He's not really going to improve health care. He's not going to revise the tax code in a way that's broadly popular (the so-called Democrats in his administration are plutocrats who will want all of reform's winners to be in their economic class). And if somehow he is persuaded to move into territory where some Democrats might vote for his proposals, I assume Republicans will shut them down in Congress. (I'm pretty sure the majority party can also filibuster a bill in the Senate.)
I think what will happen is that Trump will approach every issue the way he approached health care -- he'll have no fixed ideas, so he'll just defer to whoever has strong opinions, the way he deferred to Paul Ryan on the Obamacare replacement. Jared and Gary Cohn will give us a Wall Street-friendly approach to taxes and infrastructure. Jeff Sessions will dominate in his areas of influence. On foreign policy, we'd better hope McMaster and Jared can cobble together something.
Maybe Jared and Ivanka will persuade Dad to fully staff the Executive Branch -- although Jared's willingness to take on half the Executive Branch's functions personally suggests that he doesn't quite understand the staffing problem either. But at least all Bannon's talk of government "deconstruction" might be a distant memory.
Meanwhile, if Bannon goes, I think Rebekah Mercer and her dad will turn on Trump. Inevitably, Breitbart -- whether or not it's run by Bannon again -- will follow, given how much money the Mercers have pumped into it. Fox will stick with Trump until he deviates too much from conservative correctness, although I think any compromise whatsoever with Democrats will go over Fox's line.
If Trump becomes moderate but remains ineffective, he'll be described on the right as a cuck. Maybe Mark Meadows will threaten to primary him. Or Bannon.