Steve Bannon believed in Trumpism. Donald Trump doesn’t. By Ezra Klein at Vox (PC site).
As president of the United States, Trump is proving to be one of the weakest, most disinterested executives in memory. He seems happy — even eager — to be both operationally and ideologically marginalized inside his own administration. …
White House staff, congressional Republicans, military leaders, and executive branch officials are increasingly confident simply ignoring President Trump. … After Trump tweeted his threats at North Korea, the key organs of American foreign policymaking — the State Department, the Defense Department, and so on — were quick to declare that nothing had changed, there was no military buildup or new red lines, and everyone should just ignore the commander in chief’s morning outburst. A list like this could go on. …
Trump could react to all this with fury. He could elevate aides, like Bannon, who are committed to his ideological agenda and invested in reshaping the federal government around his vision, and fire Cabinet officials and top staffers who seem to be using his administration to drive their agendas. But he isn’t.
There are two ways a president can make sure the federal policy roughly tracks his wishes. One way is to insist on it himself, but Trump has no interest in doing that. Another way is to outsource ideological enforcement to committed, empowered lieutenants.
Bannon was the closest thing Trump had to a lieutenant like that: He was the true believer running around the federal government trying to force various agencies and officials to align their work with Trump’s campaign promises. In his interview with the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, Bannon said that forcing the government to actually carry out Trump’s trade agenda was a daily struggle.
The problem is that Bannon could only win those fights if Trump wanted him to win those fights — and now we see Trump didn’t. Instead, Trump has systematically elevated outsiders to his campaign and operation like John Kelly and Gary Cohn while alienating or firing allies like Bannon and Reince Priebus. The result is a White House where the top staff doesn’t care what Trump says and the president doesn’t seem to care that they don’t care.
This doesn’t make much sense unless you buy Hayes’s theory of Trump’s presidency: that we’re watching a president who wants to comment on his own presidency without actually driving its agenda or being held accountable for anything he says.
Maybe. Perhaps Trump is finished. But Trumpism must continue or Westerners have a much reduced future.
hat-tip Stephen Neil