A clever play to exploit the tensions between Trump and the congressional GOP as the media floods the zone about Trump’s press conference. Reporters will descend on House Republicans to ask them if they think a censure is in order. If they say yes, the pro-Trump Republican base will go berserk. If they say no, Democrats will cite it as “proof” that Republicans agree with him about the alt-right.
The odds of a formal censure must be south of 10 percent, although let’s see what polling on presidential job approval looks like next week. It ain’t good now, but next week probably won’t be much different. Probably. In any case, if something did pass the House, it wouldn’t read anything like Jerrold Nadler’s fantasy here:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) does hereby censure and condemn President Donald Trump for his inadequate response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, his failure to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism, for re-asserting that “both sides” were to blame and excusing the violent behavior of participants in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, and for employing people with ties to white supremacist movements in the White House, such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka; and
(2) does hereby urge President Donald Trump to fire any and all White House advisors who have urged him to cater to the alt-Right movement in the United States.
There wouldn’t be anything about Bannon or Gorka in a Republican-written censure resolution, but then there almost certainly won’t be a Republican-written censure resolution, period. The way out of this jam for Paul Ryan, I assume, will be to propose a resolution about Charlottesville that doesn’t mention Trump or censure at all but implicitly rebukes him. E.g., “It is the sense of the House that white supremacy is antithetical to American values, that white nationalists bear chief responsibility for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville,” and so on. After it passes, Trump will say, “It’s not a rebuke! I said all of that myself.” Then he’ll do another 15-minute riff about good and bad people on both sides.
The fact that Nadler would bring Bannon into this is interesting, though. He must know that Dems loudly demanding Bannon’s head will only make Trump less inclined to give in by firing him. Maybe he’s using reverse psychology, hoping/expecting that Trump keeps Bannon on and continues to take hits over him. This quote from a source “close to the White House” sounds like reverse psychology too, although from the opposite direction:
“The president obviously is very nervous and afraid of firing him,” a source close to the White House told Reuters.
The source floated the possibility that Bannon could be demoted instead of fired, noting that he might turn into a harsh critic of the administration if he is forced out of the inner circle.
Trump’s too much of a cuck to fire Bannon, say the Bannon-haters, hoping Trump will bristle and prove them wrong. No way, say the people (left and right) who want Bannon to stay on for their own reasons. Trump must fire him to appease the left. Whose bidding will the president allow himself to be perceived as doing?
Trump being Trump, yesterday’s press conference may make him less likely to dismiss Bannon than he was before. For any other pol, firing him now would be an obvious PR move: Bannon once touted Breitbart as the platform for the alt-right, Trump is under heavy fire for not denouncing the alt-right this weekend, ergo booting Bannon to appease critics would be the obvious move. Trump will never concede a mistake, though, especially when it was a mistake he made by speaking from the heart, and Bannon’s dismissal now would be interpreted as an admission that he erred yesterday. For that reason alone, purely to spite the anti-Trumpers, Trump may keep him around. And Bannon’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. Per Bloomberg, “A source close to Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, said he was proud of the president’s performance Tuesday.”
Exit question: Are we destined for a media war between Fox News and populist-nationalist sites like Breitbart? Rupert Murdoch has reportedly been urging Trump to boot Bannon. If he’s fired at Murdoch’s behest, revenge would obviously be in order.