I’m treating this as confirmation that my hot take was right all along, that Bannon reached the point where he preferred to be martyred by “globalists” than to stick around and share blame for a disappointing presidency.
Or maybe that’s just his after-the-fact spin to save face? Either way, the fallout will be entertaining.
“He’s going nuclear,” said another friend. “You have no idea. This is gonna be really f***ing bad.”
Bannon had in recent days mused about leaving, according to people who have spoken with him; he has expressed to friends that he feels the administration is failing and is a sinking ship. And last week, he told people in a meeting that he would have 10 times more influence outside the White House than inside it…
Another source close to Bannon said that he remains loyal to Trump himself. But “when Steve feels the Trump administration is wrong, will he point to the people he has the inside knowledge about who are pushing for certain policies? I assume he will.”
Yeah, although it’s fun to imagine direct conflict between the two alpha-male populists Trump and Bannon, that’s probably too risky for Bannon to try. If he forces right-wingers to choose between their loyalty to him and Breitbart and their loyalty to the guy in the White House in whom they’ve invested all of their political hopes, chances are Trump’s going to win. The way to hurt Trump without attacking him personally is to paint him as the unfortunate victim of the evil “globalists” surrounding him. Wound Kushner, wound McMaster, wound Kelly, wound Cohn, make it all part of a grand narrative of a great leader being “betrayed” by his mostly Democratic inner circle, and you square the circle. Bannon would still be perceived as being on “Trump’s side” even though he’d be undermining the president’s administration the entire while. Ben Shapiro, who knows from personal experience how Bannon operates, sees it shaping up that way too:
That's McMaster, Cohn, Powell, Jared, Ivanka. Breitbart's coverage won't change all that much. But it will be more negative overall. (/2)
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 18, 2017
He'll wait until there's little risk to hit Trump himself. Breitbart just won't be nearly as much of a cheerleading site. (/END)
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 18, 2017
Axios quotes a source “familiar with Breitbart’s operations” as saying the plan is to “go ‘thermonuclear’ against ‘globalists’ that Bannon and his friends believe are ruining the Trump administration, and by extension, America.” According to CNN’s Oliver Darcy, the site is already preparing stories “critical of people in the Trump White House,” which undoubtedly means the Kushner contingent. “Steve’s allies in the populist nationalist movement are ready to ride to the gates of hell with him against the West Wing Democrats,” said one source to the Hill. “If [Bannon’s enemies in the White House] think what’s happened with Steve is rough, wait until they see what he does outside the White House.” Are you getting the picture? He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.
If nothing else, the torrent of threats and vows of recriminations will help soothe a bruised ego:
The "I'm going to war…FOR TRUMP!!!" from Bannon is possibly the most pathetic statement in American history.
— STU BURGUIERE (@WorldOfStu) August 18, 2017
“No one liked him,” one senior White House official said to Politico of the alleged “widespread disdain” for Bannon in the West Wing. “People didn’t know what he did other than stab his colleagues in the back.” Good news: He’ll be stabbing them in the front now.
Rosie Gray reported earlier this afternoon that Bannon’s return to Breitbart is likely but not quite a done deal, with the Mercers possibly enticing him to run a pro-Trump outside group instead. But, as Gray notes, why would he do that? Bannon doesn’t want to attack the Democrats outside the White House on Trump’s behalf; he wants to attack the Democrats inside the White House as a matter of score-settling. (Pause here and reflect that the entire pitch for backing Trump last fall to reluctant Republicans was the need to fight the common enemy in the other party and advance the GOP agenda.) At an outside group, he’d be stuck doing the same sort of thing he’s been doing inside the White House with a tiny fraction of the prestige. He’d be a much bigger player, with vastly greater freedom to maneuver, back at Breitbart. Which, according to the Times, is where he’s headed after all.
Exit question: Who are the Republicans still left in the West Wing? Are there any? Then again, who knows if Bannon considers himself a Republican. Or if Trump does, for that matter.
Update: And there you go.
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) August 18, 2017
Update: Yeah, it’s going to be bad.
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”