Bannon vs. Kushner: The battle for Trump’s soul
The battle for Trump’s heart and mind has deteriorated to the “point of breakdown,” said Maggie Haberman in The New York Times. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the rumpled “economic nationalist” who sees himself as the keeper of Trump’s populist promises, is in open warfare with Jared Kushner, Trump’s sleek son-in-law, who is trying to push Trump to the center. “Work this out,” Trump ordered his feuding advisers last week. But that may be impossible. Bannon has already lost his seat on the National Security Council, and in an angry confrontation with Kushner, Bannon scornfully told the 36-year-old real estate heir they disagree because “you’re a Democrat.” Behind Kushner’s back, Bannon is calling him “a cuck” and “a globalist,” said Asawin Suebsaeng in TheDailyBeast.com. Kushner’s allies, meanwhile, portray Bannon as a rude, ineffective blowhard who’s alienated other Republicans.
For the sake of the Republican Party, let’s hope Bannon gets pushed out, said Reihan Salam in Slate.com. He vowed to champion trade barriers, immigration restriction, and infrastructure spending, and to turn the GOP into a defender of the white working class. But he’s not only failed to advance these goals—“he’s moved them further out of reach.” The amateurish ban on Middle Eastern immigrants Bannon helped write crashed and burned in the courts, while energizing Trump’s opposition; Bannon then failed spectacularly to bully the House Freedom Caucus into passing Ryancare. He’s been eclipsed in influence over Trump not only by Kushner but also by establishment types like National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive (and Democrat) who’s emerged as the favorite to succeed embattled White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
We know how this ends, said Timothy O’Brien in Bloomberg.com. “Family always comes first in Trumplandia,” and at the end of the day, “Jared and Ivanka remain the president’s favorite sounding boards.” Neither of them has any experience in politics, foreign affairs, or managing big organizations, “and that’s unfortunate, because neither has the president.” Firing Bannon would be dangerous, though, said Rick Wilson in TheDailyBeast.com. The “alt-right” underbelly that helped elect Trump is already growing suspicious that he’s turning into a conventional Republican. If a vengeful Bannon rejoins the populist, internet-driven movement he helped start, Trump “should prepare for war.” ■