Mike Allen likely has as good a sources as anyone for the White House Game of Thrones story. He says this morning that Priebus will now be allowed to stay. He is “‘with the program’ of a more inclusive style, and will stay.”
It is worth noting here that Priebus was a job-seeker convert to Bannonism in the first place. Now he’ll unconvert to keep his job. Bannon too might get to stay. But only at a steep price. As Allen puts it, “Either Steve becomes a team player and gets along with people, or he’ll be gone.” To render this in the alt-Trump creole, Bannon can stay if he agrees to go cuck.
Through all this report, though, one sentence (this one describing Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s viewpoint) captures the real story: “In their view, Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology.”
Let’s not be naive. Personal political interest is always in tension with ideology for every politician. But there is something qualitatively different here. What is I think being accurately described is an understanding of the “interests of the president” which is entirely separate not only from “ideology” but what we’d likely consider even the broadest sort of political viewpoint and belief. The “interests of the president” here is being popular, having strong poll numbers, ‘winning’ as Trump himself might put it. Bannon is putting “ideology” ahead of that.
This is superficially like calculations all or most politicians make. But again it’s qualitatively different. Here there really is no tension. A ‘typical’ politician of the right may try to pass himself as cuddly and spendy in a tough political year. But he won’t become a Democrat. He’ll bend as far as necessary to stay in office. A comparable logic applies to embattled Democrats. This, however, is a vision of politics or ideology as a mere product line which is by definition inherently secondary to the interests of the company bottom line.
It goes to the heart of the Family, Brand-driven, Kleptocratic nature of the Trump White House. The core aim is for the President to be popular, to succeed, a goal in key ways even more important to the thirty-something Kushner/Trumps than the 70 year old President. Politics or policy and ideology, whatever you want to call it, is changeable and secondary, just as Trump can shift from authoritarian isolationist to faux values driven internationalist in a day and a half. This is precisely what you’d expect from people who were probably apolitical or perhaps, if pushed, something like Bloomberg Democrats and then became executors of a far-right, blood and soil, racist nationalist political program. Words and policy have no meaning. What matters is protecting and maximizing the value of the new family acquisition: the presidency.
Bannon and his supporters now appear to be making a rearguard argument that this approach is self-defeating on its own terms. Here from the Times …
But Mr. Bannon has his own core of supporters outside the White House. And he has argued that Mr. Kushner’s efforts to pull his father-in-law more to the center on issues like immigration would poison him with the conservative base — a hopeless position to be in because Mr. Bannon believes so few Democrats would ever consider supporting Mr. Trump.
This seems almost certainly correct in my view. But it is telling that Bannon’s supporters seem obliged to argue their case on Kushner’s terms. Whoever ‘wins’ this battle it is highly revealing of the Trump White House’s core values.
[Did you enjoy reading this post? Considering supporting TPM by subscribing to Prime.]