Scaramucci: Trump needs to rid himself of this "Bannon-bart" influence

What would Trump’s national job approval be if the “Bannon-bart” wing of the party walked away? Fifteen percent? The time to do this if he was going to do it was on day one, as part of a decisive move towards the center. Except that wouldn’t have worked either. Democrats were never going to cooperate with Trump. They hate him for benefiting from Russia’s campaign interference at their expense; they regard obstructionism as payback for the GOP’s posture towards Obama and as a likely path to electoral success; and they see Trump as ineffably tainted by his “Bannon-bart” campaign last year no matter how hard he tries to scrub it off now. Mooch is kidding himself if he thinks booting Bannon will do Trump any good at this point.

But it looks like it might happen. I wrote this post yesterday just an hour or two before the latest from Axios appeared online:

President Trump has told close associates that he believes Steve Bannon is behind damaging leaks about White House colleagues, putting the chief strategist’s job in fresh jeopardy, sources close to the president tell me.

Trump has told associates he’s fed up with what he sees as self-promotion by Bannon, who did not join the core team this week at the president’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J…

Key West Wing colleagues believe Bannon is an instigator of leaks targeting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The stories have been driven by Breitbart News, where Bannon was executive chairman before joining Trump’s presidential campaign as chief executive in August. On Thursday, Trump backed McMaster as “our friend.”

A hot take that occurred to me in the aftermath of the Charlottesville attack: If you want to believe that Trump’s ambivalent statement about blame was a matter of strategy, not just him being tone-deaf, you could see it as his way of buying some goodwill with the populist right (especially the alt-right) in anticipation of canning Bannon. Emphasizing that violence is committed by “many sides” tells populists that Trump will continue to be their champion against the left even if Bannon is sent packing.

I doubt that’s why Trump said it, though. I think he’s reluctant to dog the alt-right and white nationalists as harshly as he does, say, his own attorney general for the same reason that explains most of his behavior: Narcissism. The alt-right loves him and he knows it. Trump will half-heartedly disavow them for political convenience when a reporter twists his arm about it but he’ll never really lay into them because he can’t bear to attack people who vouch for his greatness.

As for Mooch, the silliest part here is when he claims that dumping Bannon is a step towards advancing an agenda that benefits the middle and lower classes. You can hate Bannon if you like but he’s the most vocal champion of blue-collar interests in Trump’s orbit. He’s the guy who wants to raise the top income tax bracket to help fund an infrastructure stimulus; he’s the guy pounding the table to tear up trade agreements that permit the outsourcing of American jobs in the (mistaken) belief that that’ll be better for middle-class Americans in the long run. I’m sure Bannon also would have preferred a more populist-flavored health-care bill to the Medicaid-slashing proposal that passed the House and quickly turned toxic in public opinion polls.

Scaramucci’s a smart guy who surely understands all of that, though. He’s kneecapping Bannon, I assume, out of pure personal pique plus a need to re-ingratiate himself with New York City’s left-leaning elite after having gone to work for Trump. Exit question: If Mooch hates “Bannon-bart” so much, why did he kiss their ass so enthusiastically during his blink-and-you-missed-it tenure as White House communications chief?