You know those famous people – actors, politicians, athletes – who were getting old when you were young, about whom you now ask that most basic question – dead or alive? Well, that has become the relevant question when it comes to the legacy of a man whom most supporters of Donald Trump once lauded, but now believe to be a traitor and/or useful idiot for the forces aligned against the President.
Of course, there is another possibility: that Trump was right when he said Steve Bannon has “lost his mind.”
Indeed, the former Senior Adviser to the President has ignited a firestorm on the right with his jaw-dropping statements about Trump – and his family – in the just-released book by sensationalist author Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Among other things, Bannon called the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton “treasonous” and said he was certain the candidate knew all about the meeting and likely met with the Russian informant as well – even though that meeting occurred before he was hired by the campaign. He further claims that Trump and First Lady Melania Trump did not even want to win the election. One is left to conclude that Trump’s prolific and now legendary last two weeks of furious campaigning was just a clever smokescreen.
Credible or Incredible?
All this, only months after Bannon had appeared on 60 Minutes, passionately defending Trump and dismissing the Russia collusion investigations as “a waste of time.”
It is hard to determine which is more incredible: the comments themselves, the fact that he would even make himself available to such a well-known purveyor of sensational journalism, or that he did this while knowing for certain that his assertions would re-energize the howling, bloodthirsty mobs out to terminate the Trump presidency by any means possible.
So the double-minded Bannon claims to support Trump at every turn on one side of his mouth, while leaking and defaming not just the President, but his family, on the other.
What exactly did Bannon think would happen when he decided to go tell-all? Well, here is what he has wrought: even louder calls for extending the Mueller probe, the thus-far fruitless Russia collusion investigation, where the only news has been process crimes unrelated to the Trump campaign.
Is this consistent with Bannon’s behavior in the past? In a word, yes. Shortly after he was booted out of the White House, Bannon granted an interview to the left-wing American Prospect, of all places, in which he was sharply critical of Trump’s approach to North Korea. And more importantly, it was an open secret around Washington that he was removed from the administration because he was privately unmasked as a primary source of the leaks that were so frequent in the early days of the administration. Honestly, with friends like this, who needs the left (i.e., enemies)?
Was Bannon misquoted or taken out of context in the book? If that were true, given the spectre of an immediate severing of his relationship with the most powerful man in the world – a man who never fails to respond to a slight – Bannon would have immediately disavowed or walked back his statements. He did not.
Are those who’ve worked with Bannon – not counting those who are employees of Breitbart News – supportive of him, or surprised by his statements? In a word, no. Almost universally, the comments about Bannon focus on the same theme: that he is all about Steve Bannon. He is widely viewed by these allies as an opportunist who jumps aboard the bandwagon of candidates already on the rise, rides them to the finish line, and then takes credit if they win.
Let’s examine that last claim when it comes to Donald Trump. The bombastic billionaire announced his candidacy in June of 2015. By the time Bannon joined the campaign 14 months later, Trump had already shaken up the political world, vanquished 16 Republican rivals, and won the GOP nomination. That means Bannon was with Trump for just the last two and a half months of the campaign, and there was no major change of message or strategy. Trump carried on as he had before and won. Thus, the widespread notion that Bannon was the “power behind the throne” or Trump’s “kingmaker” is little more than fiction. Trump won because of Trump. Period. Full stop.
Of course, Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment are gleeful about all this. McConnell responded quickly to the situation, saying “I’d like to associate myself with what the president had to say about Steve Bannon.” The Breitbart Chairman is seen as a dangerous, out-of-control firebrand who threatens the GOP’s razor-thin majority in the Senate and even their more comfortable hold on the House.
Let’s not mince words here. Bannon is toast. After rising to the heights of power, he has thrown it all away and is now likely to be viewed as little more than an historical footnote. On top of having already being viewed as an unwelcome interloper, and now attacked and sued (for breaking his separation agreement) by the President, he is unlikely to be welcomed by even the most populist candidates. But the hardest cut of all may be that his funding at Breitbart, which has grown into a media giant, is likely to dry up. The Wall Street Journal is already reporting that the wealthy part-owners of Breitbart, the Mercer family, are reportedly giving serious thought to firing him.
After all, with Trump supporters forced to choose between the most powerful man in the world, a game-changing President they were so thrilled to elect who has already fulfilled many of the bold promises he made during the campaign, and a guy who rode the wave into the White House before imploding and turning on the man who put him there, who do you think they will choose?