This White House has been rocked by several enormous departures over the last seven months, but none threaten the very foundation of the administration like the one that occurred on Friday. After several weeks of speculation, the unthinkable happened: Stephen Bannon was asked to leave his position as chief strategist. By the end of the day, Bannon was back in his former role at Breitbart News. Where that site goes from here and what position they take on the Trump administration will depend on a number of factors – not the least of which is the real reason that Bannon left the fold. Was he pushed out by John Kelly? Was he ready to go himself? Where does Trump himself stand?
Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Possibility 1 – The Best Possibility
The first possibility is that Bannon and Trump split ways amicably and for reasons that have nothing to do with the America First agenda. For whatever reason, Bannon decided that he could be a greater force for change on the outside than from within and Trump agreed. Going forward, they will both be putting pressure on the “White House Democrats,” the Republican Party, and the national security establishment from their respective posts. This would mean that Trump is still every bit the man we elected and that his populist, nationalist agenda will continue to color his work as president. It would also mean, of course, that Breitbart is complete White House propaganda, but we’d much rather lose a good, independent media outlet than lost the presidency.
Possibility 2 – Trump’s Sick of Bannon Getting Credit
This is a story that’s been going around for months, and if you listen to Trump’s remarks, it’s one we think probably holds some water. The story is that Trump HATES it when people refer to President Bannon. He hates the Time magazine covers and the Saturday Night Live skits that portray Bannon as the great Svengali behind his success. And with the release of the “Devil’s Bargain” bestseller last month, the president had simply had enough. This possibility would be unfortunate and petty, but it would not necessarily indicate any significant change in Trump’s agenda.
Possibility 3 – Bannon’s Loud Mouth
We still don’t quite know what Bannon was thinking last week with a couple of bizarre, out-of-nowhere interviews where he undermined President Trump on North Korea and several other issues. Why would he tell The American Prospect that there “is no military option” with North Korea when the president is trying to pressure Pyongyang into stepping back from the nuclear brink? These interviews alone may have sealed Bannon’s fate, but we have a feeling they were more effect than cause. Most likely, Bannon already knew he was on the way out and he decided to go down swinging.
Possibility 4 – It’s the Beginning of the End
By most accounts, Bannon’s ousting came not from Trump but from Gen. John Kelly, the new White House Chief of Staff. True, Trump signed off on it, but Kelly made the call. Kelly is trying to get the White House under his full control, and he apparently felt that Bannon was a wild card that could not be constrained.
But that also indicates that the infighting at the White House is coming to an end – not because all sides have thrown up the peace sign, but because one side has won. The Ivanka/Jared/Cohn side, in other words. As Bannon puts it – the West Wing Democrats.
“We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency,” Bannon told the Weekly Standard. “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.”
This would be the worst of the possibilities, but it’s not one we can ignore.
It will become very clear, very quickly how and why this all went down. For now, we’re crossing our fingers.