The rise and fall of Steve Bannon

Ryan Lizza writes: In March, I went to the White House to visit Steve Bannon, who today was fired by President Trump. After Bannon showed off his office and his famous whiteboard, we sat down at a wooden conference table in the large corner office of Reince Priebus, who was then the White House chief of staff. Moments earlier, Priebus had left the building, and Bannon seemed to use the chief of staff’s office as if it were his own, roaming around while he talked, and flinging a Coke can in Priebus’s trash bin, as if he were marking territory. Despite the show of confidence, Bannon felt like he was beset by enemies.

Since the day after the election, Bannon had been fighting against forces that he believed were trying to roll back the promises of the Trump campaign. The whiteboard was so important to Bannon because it represented the policy ideas that he had been instrumental in foisting on Trump. And Bannon wanted everyone who came into the West Wing to know precisely what Trump was elected to enact: a Muslim ban, a border wall, a protectionist trade agenda (especially with China), and a more isolationist foreign policy. Bannon was obsessed with defeating the elements in the White House who hadn’t worked on the campaign and didn’t understand those policies.

“Did you see the lead story in today’s Financial Times?” Bannon asked me. He summoned an aide to retrieve it and threw the pink broadsheet, the paper of record for what he calls the global élite, on the table.

“The lead story is ‘explosion of civil war in White House, fiery debate in Oval Office,’ ” Bannon said. The story was one of many then detailing the internal combat between Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, and Bannon. What was somewhat unusual was that Bannon was bragging about it. In previous White Houses, officials downplayed this sort of internal combat, insisting that everyone was united around the President’s agenda. But in the Trump White House there is no Trump agenda. There is a mercurial, highly emotional narcissist with no policy expertise who set up—or allowed his senior staffers to set up—competing ideological fiefdoms that fight semi-public wars to define the soul of Trumpism. [Continue reading…]

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