Steve Bannon’s rise in the Trump administration befuddled and worried many. Columnist Froma Harrop is grateful that Trump’s strategist appears to be reined.
President Donald Trump didn’t exactly boot Steve Bannon from his ruling circle of relatives and Wall Street hotshots he might like to have as relatives. True, he threw Bannon off the National Security Council in an abrupt manner. And he piled further indignity on the self-proclaimed architect of his surprising electoral win by telling the media, “Steve is a guy who works for me.”
But the political aide was allowed to keep his desk. It made sense for Trump to keep the noisy peddler of lunatic conspiracies on the inside — as insurance against Bannon’s directing the feral talents of Breitbart News against his presidency. And from the Bannon perspective, eviction from the White House power center would have turned him into just another right-winger with an inflammatory website.
Some defenders of Republican unity, however, were taken aback by the brutality of the demotion.
“There’s something low, unseemly and ugly in the efforts to take him out so publicly and humiliatingly, to turn him into a human oil spot on the tarmac,” columnist Peggy Noonan wrote.
Seeing such a toxic personality buzzing around the White House was quite a blot on national honor. It was Trump’s capable national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who reportedly had Bannon kicked off the NSC. For that, we thank him.
And some gratitude also goes to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka for their role in getting Bannon out of our faces. Not that the young couple, however charming and grounded they are, have any business pulling the levers in Washington. They utterly lack experience.
Sorry, but it’s impossible to find redeeming social value in Stephen Bannon. His vows to turn America into a white nationalist dystopia alone should have disqualified him from an influential government role (in this country, anyway). Then there was his grandiose call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” whatever that meant.
And we won’t forget Bannon’s dark complaints about South Asians running tech companies in Silicon Valley. “A country is more than an economy,” Bannon said by way of explanation. “We’re a civic society.”
Set aside his lack of imagination to envision folks of South Asian origin as part of our civic society. What we see is a smoldering pile of insecurity.
You’d think that one who made a pile at Goldman Sachs and then did fairly well in Hollywood would not feel threatened by the success of others. Or does he believe in some demented form of white racial preferences for the CEO set?
Any self-respecting Übermensch would also not meekly report to the office right after suffering a narcissistic injury of gothic dimensions. After all, Trump dismantled his claims to dominance like a mean kid pulling wings off an insect. Even a lesser ego would have quit in anger.
I believe in freedom of speech and defend the right of racists to mutter from the sanctity of their bunkers. What bothers me more than the nastiness is the stupidity. And though the right to be stupid is also sacrosanct, seeing it ensconced at the highest levels of American government was startling.
By now, the public is so confused about what normal governance looks like that removing an obvious head case from the group overseeing national security gets hailed as evidence of good judgment. Well, it is, in the low-bar way of the Trump era. So let’s savor the moment that Bannon lost his wings.
The oil spot may fade on its own in time. Meanwhile, no thanks for the memory.