Bannon’s seeing firsthand now in the harshest possible way how thin his populist-nationalist “movement” is. He says all the right things on policy, he boosts all the right candidates, but a few harsh words on Russiagate about Trump’s top cronies and he’s on the brink of losing everything, including the “killing machine” he launched into the stratosphere online. It’s a cult of personality, Steve, whatever you may have thought it was. You helped build it and then you crossed it. Enjoy the ride.
Please, though, if he ends up being fired, let us be spared from the turd-polishing spin we had to endure after he was kicked out of the White House. “He’s liberated now! He’ll be more effective on the outside!” For God’s sake, knock it off. Have some dignity.
Mr. Bannon’s longtime benefactors, billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, are actively distancing from him even before the expected release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” according to two people close to the Mercers.
They and other Breitbart News Network LLC board members on Thursday were debating whether to oust Mr. Bannon as chairman, with many supportive of the move, according to a person familiar with the exchanges. Among the considerations are Breitbart’s contractual relationships with other entities, including Sirius XM radio, that involve Mr. Bannon…
The quarrel between the onetime political partners also is raising doubts about whether Mr. Bannon will have a financial benefactor for his run at establishment Republicans, a project that he has said is ultimately aimed at toppling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).
That last part is the acid test of how real Bannon’s populist movement is. If it’s about draining the swamp and making Mitch McConnell cry, not just blind loyalty to Trump, Bannon should still be able to attract money and votes for his primary challengers to GOP incumbents. His feelings on Russiagate have nothing to do with whether Kelli Ward or Chris McDaniel should be nominees for Senate if there’s any policy meat on the nationalist bone. You want a trade war with China? Stiffer borders? Less interventionism abroad? Then it’s all systems go for the Bannon candidates. But of course that won’t be the case in practice — unless Trump endorses them independently — since in the end Republicans are Trumpists, not populists. Even the ones on Breitbart’s board. “If you support the president, you can’t support Steve Bannon,” said one big GOP donor to the WSJ, matter of factly. I almost feel bad for the guy. Remember how excited he was, or pretended to be, after leaving the White House and reclaiming control of his “machine”?
Maybe he’ll catch on with that new Peter Thiel right-wing news network that may or may not be in the works. If it happens it’ll probably end up trying to get to Fox’s right by being even more slavishly pro-Trump than FNC is. Bannon’s already proved his ability to mastermind spectacular growth for a right-wing media outlet with an agenda along those lines. And now, oh the irony, he may be unhireable by Thiel or anyone else in the near term because he’s perceived as being too … anti-Trump.
Here’s McConnell on one of the best days of his political life.
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2018
Update: The kiss of death?
In a new statement Thursday, billionaire conservative donor Rebekah Mercer said that she has not spoken to Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, in many months and that she continues to support President Trump.
“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected,” Mercer said. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”
She’s Breitbart’s chief financier. How can he go on if she’s no longer supporting his agenda?
Update: Sweet Jesus. They’re not messing around.
The Mercer family, which had largely subsidized Mr. Bannon’s enterprises, began drifting from Mr. Bannon months ago amid concerns about how the controversy he was generating was affecting the family, according to family associates. The Mercers were upset further when they learned that Mr. Bannon had privately boasted that they would back him if he ran for president, according to one family associate. The Mercers cut off their funding for Mr. Bannon’s personal protective detail, the associate added.
When did it dawn on them, exactly, that Bannon wasn’t great for the Mercer family’s image? Did they think Breitbart being known, in Bannon’s own words, as “the platform for the alt-right” was going to endear them to their social circle?