Will the Republican Establishment Suppress Bannon?

How long will Steve Bannon, Pres. Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist, retain his influence in the White House?Much has been made about Bannon’s role at Breitbart Media, his “alt-right” views and running the last leg of Trump’s victorious campaign.  America’s 45th president owes much to his operational and propagandistic skills, but Bannon poses significant risks to the new administration.

Bannon is an extremely dangerous operative, who, as he reportedly proclaimed – and later denied — to the Daily Beast, “I’m a Leninist.”  “Lenin,” he added, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”  He failed to acknowledge that Lenin did destroy the czarist state — only to replace it with the Stalinist dictatorship.

Since Trump took office, Bannon has begun to exercise increasing influence and power in the White House decision-making process.  His shoot-from-the-hip political strategy has fueled Trump’s all-important first 100 days in office and he’s increasing takin control over almost all written statements from the White House and the National Security Council (NSA).  His secretive and quasi-dictatorial management style — one shared by his boss – has ignited numerous controversies. His latest target is Pope Francis.

Bannon participated, along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, at a White House dinner with Trump and Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis at which the decision was made to launch a raid by Navy SEAL Team 6 at a questionable Al-Qaeda camp in Yemen in which a SEAL and 30 Yemeni were killed.  A split appears to be a deepening between Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and Kushner, with Bannon – along with VP Mike Pence – over LGBT rights; the couple reportedly persuaded Trump to drop an executive order targeted the gay community.

Trump’s ship-of-state is riddled with leaks and the press, particularly the New York Time, Washington Post and CNN, are exposing the internal failings of the new administration.  Not a day goes by when a news outlet reveals a gossipy tidbit about its missteps or brewing sandals.  Two controversies, however, have drawn considerable attention – the banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and Bannon appointment to the NSC’s Principals Committee.

Bannon oversaw the drafting of the executive order banning Muslims and received little or no input from key federal agencies, including immigration, customs and border security.  This inept process led to widespread confusion and some Cabinet officials complained that the lack of consultation caused such missteps as the failure to exempt green-card holders.  It triggered innumerable mass protests in cities and airports across the country as well as a series of successful legal actions that have led to the temporary halt in its implementation.

The New York Times first reported that Trump didn’t read the executive order appointing Bannon to the Principals Committee.  As it reported, “Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.”

The Washington Post recent revealed the deepening tension between Bannon and a key Cabinet official, John Kelly, Sec. of Homeland Security.  It reported, “White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks and told him not to issue the order [Muslim ban].  Kelly … refused to comply.”  It adds: “Respectfully but firmly, the retired general told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with President Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command.  If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.”

The Post has been updating a list of Republican Senators who oppose and/or question the Muslim ban:

+ Oppose the ban: John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Jeff Flake (AZ), Ben Sasse (NB), Dean Heller (NV), Jerry Moran (KS), Cory Gardner (CO) and Susan Collins (ME).

+ Question some aspect of it or its implementation: Mitch McConnell (KY), Mike Lee (UT), Marco Rubio (FL), Tim Scott (SC), Rob Portman (OH), John Barrasso (WY), Joni Ernst (IO), Pat Toomey (PA), Thom Tillis (NC), Lamar Alexander (TN), Bob Corker (TN), James Lankford (OK), Orrin Hatch (UT), Bill Cassidy (LO) and Johnny Isakson (GA).

Other Trump actions may further embolden these Senators – and, hopefully, Republican Congress-people – to oppose both the president and Bannon.

Trump has assembled a Cabinet distinguished by capitalist oligarchs, hedge-fund scammers and failed military officers.  Nevertheless, as suggested by Sec. Kelly’s resistance to Bannon’s push to bar Muslims, one can imagine other Cabinet members actively challenging his – and, ultimately, Trump’s — policies.

As these high-powered corporate executives and officers gain control over their respective bureaucracies and fully appreciate the power they wield, they well might contest Bannon’s arrogance and simple-minded “alt-right” ideology.  Aligning with “moderate” Senators like McCain and Graham, this unlikely coalition may force Trump to jettison Bannon or face far more problematic resistance that threatens his very presidency.

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.