In Donald Trump’s royal retinue, even the most favored courtier can fall from the king’s favor. Enter Stephen Bannon, a man that seemed to not only take glee in his nefarious reputation as the shadow president of the Trump administration, but has even went so far to compare himself to Thomas Cromwell in the Tudor court. Bannon heralded the alt-right, he brought an anti-government fringe movement into the mainstream and has become an organizing force for chaos in party politics.
However, his stint as the Prince of Darkness seems to be over – he was recently deposed from the very perch he created himself; Bannon is no longer on the National Security Council.
The first few moments of Trump’s reign were marked by enough controversy that Bannon almost slithered in unnoticed at meetings that determined the outcome of both intelligence and military matters. Bannon’s undue influence ruffled quite a few feathers, yet he weathered most of the criticism as Trump’s more outlandish appointments stole most of the public ire. Although a divisive figure, he was given power and prestige and I imagine, much to his delight, was given the official title of chief strategist and unofficial title of the second most powerful man in the world.
Yet Bannon had not learned a crucial lesson from history – what the king giveth he may taketh away. Not even 100 days into Trump’s presidency, his most important advisor was ousted and a new prince took his place, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Though it was officially reported that this was not a demotion, that Bannon had barely attended meetings and was only there to keep a watchful eye on Michael Flynn, who was previously ousted for his undisclosed Russian associations, the damage was done. The New York Times report insisted that Bannon had threatened to quit if his precious position was stolen from him. Bannon now shares his influence with the much-loathed Kushner, who will handle foreign policy while he handles the domestic side of things.
Can we blame our mad king? After the failure of Trump’s immigration ban, the catastrophe that was his healthcare plan and plummeting poll numbers, perhaps Bannon was not the evil mastermind we all thought him to be. While proudly declaring that he would “deconstruct the administrative state,” he has instead enabled it. Trump recently has gone on record to downplay Bannon’s role in his presidential win and his influence in the White House; while offering a terse warning, he said in a Post interview, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”
Although I once thought Bannon to be the most dangerous man in Washington, I have come to believe that he may be the most inept. Almost all of the executive orders he has helped write have come under heavy criticism from the media and public, and now 65 Democrats have signed a petition to have him removed from the administration. Trump has resorted to surrounding himself with his own children, blatantly showing his nepotism to the world in the appointing of his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Kushner. Like a modern-day King Henry’s court, he breaks all the rules and Cromwell can only seethe in the corner and mutter about his displeasures.
I feared Bannon because I thought I knew who he was, however, I have come to fear Trump’s new royal court more, precisely because I do not know who Kushner and Ivanka Trump are. Although they were just recently registered as Democrats, they have now taken Bannon’s place as the most important figures in a Republican administration. I can only watch this palace intrigue from afar, and hope Bannon’s star continues to fall and no one else’s rises.
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