For much of the early part of the Donald Trump administration, it looked like it was more accurate to call it the Steve Bannon administration. After all, while Bannon was officially Trump’s chief strategist and chief political operative, he was exercising many of the powers of the presidency himself–even drafting executive orders.
Fast forward to this summer. The man who publicly declared that he wants to burn everything down seems to have caught his own standing in the White House ablaze.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal editorial board rapped Bannon hard for using right-wing “news” sites to go after his foes. The Journal claimed that Bannon’s no-holds-barred political style is directly responsible for much of the “dysfunction” in the Trump White House, and also questioned his loyalty to Trump.
Bannon has frequently been suspected of having Breitbart News, which he ran before taking over the Trump campaign late last summer, run hit pieces against his White House colleagues. He actually issued an ethics waiver allowing him to remain in contact with Breitbart, and is apparently taking full advantage of it. But Breitbart isn’t Bannon’s only mouthpiece. When a number of stories appeared in alt-right outlets attacking White House economic advisers as “globalists,” Bannon was immediately fingered as the culprit; he coined that term.
Apparently the wave of negative stories was too much even for Trump. In June, after a number of stories praised Bannon for getting the upper hand in a number of policy disputes, Trump told Bannon to cool it. A senior White House official told Politico that then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also told Bannon to back off because it was obvious the negative stories were coming from him.
Apparently those warnings weren’t heeded. Reportedly, Bannon is the driving force behind a number of Breitbart stories attacking National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster. That hasn’t sat well with new Chief of Staff and fellow general John Kelly, who has made it clear that he will not tolerate the infighting that characterized the first six months of Trump’s tenure.
Considering that Bannon was essentially demoted when Kelly took over from Priebus, Bannon’s attacks on McMaster seem remarkably ill-timed. Initially, Priebus and Bannon shared the top level on the White House org chart. However, when Kelly took over, it was made clear from the outset that the entire West Wing–including Bannon–would report to him.
Bannon didn’t help his stocks when The Intercept exposed him as a liar.
Bannon claims he saw Islam as threat after visiting Pakistan in the Navy. Military records say he was not there. https://t.co/LnOnIsoTyd
— The Intercept (@theintercept) August 11, 2017
In a book about Bannon written by Josh Green, Bannon claims he became an Islamophobe while serving in the Navy. He claimed that while serving as a junior officer aboard the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster in 1979, his ship stopped in Karachi. He recalled being taken aback by the scene, which he described as being “the other end of the earth.” However, six of Bannon’s shipmates told The Intercept that their craft never stopped in Karachi. This is confirmed by the Foster’s deck logs and cruisebook, which show that at the time Bannon claimed the ship was in Karachi, it was actually in Hong Kong.
Additionally, Bannon claims to have seen Iran first-hand when the Foster took part in an attempt to rescue the American hostages being held there in early 1980. He claimed that Iran “looked like the moon,” and some stretched looked like a time warp into the fifth century. But a number of Bannon’s fellow officers recalled that the Foster was serving as an escort to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, and was usually stationed 12 miles from Iran–too far away to see anything with even high-powered binoculars.
In other words, much of Bannon’s narrative is bogus. That certainly can’t help his stock in the White House–even in a White House where lying seems to be a requirement to get a job.
Lately, Bannon has spent most of his time either attending meetings or locked away in his office. That’s quite a remarkable drop for a guy who, at one point, seemed so influential that “Saturday Night Live” did a skit that ended with Bannon sitting at the president’s Oval Office desk–with Trump sitting at a baby version. Looks like the man who wanted to leave the system a smoldering rubble may be about to have his credibility reduced to a cinder.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)