Forget North Korea for a moment — President Donald J Trump today launched a devastating assault on Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, and the man often credited as the architect of his success.
Replying to bitchy comments Steve Bannon reportedly made in Fire and Fury, a new book about the Trump White House by arch-muckraker hack Michael Wolff, Trump exploded. His comments are worth reading in full:
‘Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.
Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.’
No denying the hostility, is there? Bannon’s allies have until now liked to make out that even though the President had to sack Bannon, he remains deeply sympatico towards Bannon’s worldview. They whisper that, anyway, the movement that propelled Trump to the presidency is ‘bigger than this administration’ and Trump needed them more than they needed him. In September last year I was told by a former White House aide that Trump would wait until his staff left the White House each night before calling Bannon sometimes for hours at a time.
That may still have been true then or it may have been wishful thinking. It seems unlikely to be true now.
Certainly, the partnership of Steven Bannon and Donald Trump was always an odd match. Both men are alpha male, media-obsessed and temperamental — but their temperaments and characters differ wildly.
Trump is an attention-seeker extraordinaire, ideologically flexible and obsessed with outward appearances. Bannon prefers to operate in the shadows, dresses like a tramp and cares mostly about waging war on the liberal elite.
Their alliance was forged through the mysterious world of professional Clinton hating — and consummated through Trump’s successful election campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton, a campaign that Bannon directed in its final weeks.
The early phase of the Trump presidency was also strongly influenced by Bannon. But it was always more a marriage of convenience.
It’s also possible that, as Trump says, Bannon and his friends greatly exaggerated his importance in Trump’s election, in the Trump administration, and even in the phenomenon that is Trumpism. While Bannon and his Breitbart colleagues thought they were integral to Trump’s project, perhaps they were merely useful pawns in a bigger political chess game, now knocked aside.
It seems that, in office, Trump gradually came to accept that Bannon’s insurgent radicalism was more useful on the campaign trail than in the seat of power. How much more important is Bannon, really, than the Mercer family who bankrolled him and much of the so-called Trumpist movement?
Meanwhile, Michael Wolff, a journalist with a genius for sensationalism, has just pulled off a PR masterstroke. His book should sell like crazy now.