Steve Bannon: We need a review after this Alabama race to see how Trump came to endorse someone like Luther Strange
Okay, here’s the review: Strange will vote any way Trump wants him to, Moore will go his own way. Simple as that. Worse, Moore may go his own way on things that Trump doesn’t care about, like gay marriage. Imagine Moore trying to block a Trump SCOTUS nomination because the nominee hasn’t committed to overturning Obergefell. Not in a million years would Strange cross POTUS that way. If you’re a populist, as Bannon is, it makes sense that you’d prefer Moore to Strange. If you’re a Trumpist, as Trump is, all you really want is loyalty for whatever your agenda happens to be at a particular moment. There seems to be some vague sense on the right that because Trump is a loose cannon, naturally he’d prefer a loose cannon to fill Sessions’s seat in the Senate. But why? Trump craves obedience more than anything, especially in a fickle, restive Senate. And if he’s going to roll the dice on a populist who won’t be easy to control, why would he do it for one whose bread and butter is social conservatism?
Bannon knows all of that, though. This “we need a review” thing is part of the shtick he and other Moore supporters are using in Alabama to stay on the right side of Trump’s cult of personality. Trump can’t fail, they maintain, he can only be failed. Therefore his decision to endorse Strange can’t be explained in terms of obvious self-interest but rather in terms of him being manipulated by “globalists” or RINOs or establishmentarians or Mitch McConnell or whoever. Someone has fooled our poor innocent president into backing a candidate who’ll, uh, rubber-stamp anything he wants. The very idea of an internal “review” to figure out why POTUS endorsed a candidate who won’t stop hugging him is ridiculous. But I think WaPo’s right: For Bannon, the idea of a “review” is a way to turn up some populist heat on his old nemeses in the West Wing. He can’t impugn Trump but he can certainly impugn John Kelly and Gary Cohn and Jared Kushner, etc, by wondering which sinister forces led Trump down the path of folly in endorsing Strange.
Reporters are noting on Twitter today how hard it is to imagine other people who’ve served as chief strategist to the president, like Karl Rove or David Axelrod, speaking the night before an election at a rally for a primary candidate opposed by the president himself. And not just speaking but torching the president’s nominal allies on the Hill: Bannon’s message to Moore supporters yesterday was that Republican leaders hold them in utter contempt. Whatever happens in Alabama tonight, the result will push the GOP further towards formally splitting into two parties, which it already is in practice. Here’s to clarity.