A tantalizing leftover from this weekend via Mike Allen, although it’s light on details about the “centrist” part. The gist is that Steve Bannon has supposedly been told to either play nice with Jared Kushner and the rest of the “Democrats” in the White House or move on. Cooperation, collaboration, inclusiveness — in theory that should lead to policies that are less nationalist and more “centrist,” but since nationalism is already centrist in many ways, I’m not sure what this means in practice. Is Trump planning to move left on immigration, which would be a bona fide centrist move on his part, or is he planning to move left on infrastructure spending, which is in line with what Steve Bannon himself wants? Where exactly is the “center” on health-care reform nowadays, anyway?
To the extent that Kushner and, to a lesser extent, Priebus are both more “moderate” figures than the ideologue Bannon, then sure, this sounds centrist-y.
Steve Bannon, the engine and soul of President Trump’s hard-edged approach to his first months in office, is increasingly isolated and will be forced out unless he can adopt a more cooperative approach, a top source told me…
A senior official said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is “with the program” of a more inclusive style, and will stay. Insiders have been feverishly discussing possible replacements and Trump considered a change, but the official said: “Reince is staying.”…
The changing culture: Here are the two crucial words to understand the outgoing style and incoming style: We’re told that rather than “nationalist” vs. “globalist,” think of “combat” vs. “collaboration.”
As of Friday, Bannon’s allies were supposedly pleading with Trump not to fire him, arguing (not wrongly) that it would royally piss off Trump’s nationalist fans while getting him maybe a day of good press from the left. What happens to a man with a 41 percent approval rating who suddenly loses the most devoted chunk of his base? Nothing good, that’s what. Other Bannon allies were defiant, vowing that he “ain’t going anywhere” and that “Democrats will never run the White House,” although given the increasing influence of Kushner, Gary Cohn, and Dina Powell and Trump’s recent switch from America First-er to humanitarian interventionist, it … sounds like they already do. Despite the tough talk from Bannon-ites, though, he and Kushner reportedly held a “kumbaya” meeting on Friday that went well, or at least well enough for Breitbart allegedly to stop writing hit pieces about Kushner temporarily. Bannon is likely safe this week, and next week.
But what about the week after that? That’s a very important week indeed:
The symbolic 100-day mark by which modern presidents are judged menaces for an image-obsessed chief executive whose opening sprint has been marred by legislative stumbles, legal setbacks, senior staff kneecapping one another, the resignation of his national security adviser and near-daily headlines and headaches about links to Russia.
The date, April 29, hangs over the West Wing like the sword of Damocles as the unofficial deadline to find its footing — or else…
Trump’s communications team is now plotting to divide the first 100 days into three categories of accomplishments, according to people familiar with plans: “prosperity” (such as new manufacturing jobs, reduced regulations and pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal), “accountability” (following through on swamp-draining campaign promises such as lobbying restrictions) and “safety/security” (including the dramatic reduction in border crossings and the strike in Syria).
Why does the 100-days mark strike such fear into the hearts of White House staffers? Because they know Trump is a voracious consumer of media and they also know most of the many, many “first 100 days” media retrospectives in the days following April 29th are likely to be unflattering. Even his political victories, like Gorsuch and the Syria airstrike, will be downplayed by the press: Republicans wrecked Senate comity to get Gorsuch through, and Syria will be a quagmire! And they’ll luxuriate in his failures, most notably the doomed House GOP health-care bill. He’ll be pissed off and looking to place blame. Kushner is safe because he’s Kushner, and it sounds like Reince is safe because he’s willing to accommodate any sort of policy shift Trump wants to make, but Bannon’s the chief strategist and the strategy hasn’t been great so far — not just on health care but on tax reform, where the White House is reportedly back to the drawing board on writing a plan that can pass Congress. If there’s going to be a scapegoat, who is it likely to be?
I think Bannon will end up staying, though. He has enough of a constituency among right-wing populists himself that firing him would create a lasting political headache for Trump. He doesn’t want Breitbart taking potshots at him every day, calling him a sellout. He may end up with a schizophrenic policy program where Bannon reins supreme in areas on which he and Trump both feel passionately, like trade and immigration, whereas Kushner and Cohn have more influence over the rest of the agenda. The more political capital Trump can build with his nationalist base on immigration, by reducing border crossings and building the wall, the more slack they’re likely to cut him on things like bombing Syria. He needs to keep Bannon around to protect his right-wing cred. And since Bannon would surely rather be advising the president than running Breitbart again, that’s the makings of a mutually agreeable solution.