I remember the duck and cover under a desk drills in school in preparation for a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. That would have done about as much good as a Betsy DeVos led Department of Education. Out of that era came an international relations theory known by the acronym of MAD which stood for Mutually Assured Destruction. Decades later came a television series named Mad Men. That “mad” stood for Manhattan’s Madison Avenue which was the epicenter of the powerful advertising business in the 1960’s. Last week we may have seen a 2018 version of mad men (as in insane) and they may be engaged in mutually assured destruction only unlike various American Presidents and Soviet Premiers they may not be smart enough to avoid the mutual destruction. Let’s explore.
Last week 2018 started with the release of the book Fire and Fury. (I have no plans to either purchase or read it.) Based on excerpts, (or what the genius that is Sarah Huckabee-Sanders calls “Experts”), the West Wing staff views President Trump as someone not even remotely capable of doing the job of president. He basically knows nothing that you would expect a president to know and will not read or listen to those who try to inform and advise him. Those charged with assisting him routinely use words like stupid, idiot and moron to describe him. They often supplement the description with colorful adjectives that I can’t print here and still retain my PG rating.
Much like a Mafia Don, he values loyalty over competence which is why he has family among his closest advisors. With what in my opinion is good cause, most of the West Wing staff doesn’t think much more highly of them than they do the President.
Based on extensive advance coverage this book is light on revelations and heavy on reinforcing what we already knew or surmised of the Trump White House. Rather than confront substance, the White House has used one of its old strategies: Shoot the messenger(s). The largest source of leaks is former Senior Advisor Steve Bannon. Despite being the third and final 2016 Trump campaign head and a Senior Advisor to the President with equal status to the Chief of Staff, according to Huckabee-Sanders he is someone who was never close to Trump. (Maybe Bannon got coffee when George Papadopoulos wasn’t around.) The White House is even trying to downplay the author’s access to the West Wing when it was well known that he had almost unfettered access to the staff despite having a reputation of doing hatchet jobs on the subjects of his previous books. (I guess extreme vetting doesn’t extend to the White House interior.)
Bannon, while certainly having a strange political philosophy is actually well read; he just reads strange and questionable books. Bannon is also an effective conduit to the large white supremacist segment of the electorate that votes Republican if you can get them to turnout. Bannon can motivate them. Trump apparently inherited his racism as well as his wealth from his father who was arrested for participating in a Nazi demonstration in New York City during Donald’s youth and later taught the President how to profit by discriminating in rental practices early in his business career while working for his daddy. (Isn’t that how all “self-made’ men start out?)
Bannon only became a household name after he joined forces with Trump. It is extremely questionable if Trump could have been elected or win reelection without the Bannon delivered racist vote. Their political existence is symbiotic.
The Mercer family is Bannon’s chief political angel when it comes to financing. At this writing it is an open question as to whether they will continue to bankroll his efforts. There are rumblings that Bannon has recently been trying to diversify his benefactor base. How successful that venture was and whether it can weather this storm is an unknown. If Trump has effectively pulled the financial plug on Bannon he may have destroyed him.
The question then becomes: Can Trump retain the support of white supremacists without Bannon? If he can’t he is politically destroyed. (Trump destroyed himself by destroying Bannon in that scenario.) He is not a viable candidate in 2020 without that vote. Prior to that he loses the hold he has over many elected Republicans who fear a backlash from Trump voters in a Republican primary. Practical politicians realize that they must either avoid a primary challenge or win the primary before they can get to the general election.
I don’t know if Trump and Bannon will eventually destroy each other. Fortunately there is nothing to stop me from hoping they will!
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