Cillizza: How much longer can Steve Bannon hang on?

Story highlights

  • Trump's comments about Bannon mark the nadir of a relationship
  • The only question now is whether Bannon accepts his very public dressing-down

Washington (CNN)Here's a complete list of what President Donald Trump has said about White House chief strategist Steve Bannon over the last 48 hours:

    Now, imagine if your boss said something similar about you. You'd be, rightly, devastated. Now imagine if your boss said those things about you to a reporter. You'd probably close all the blinds in your house and stay in bed for a few days. Or a few months.
    Trump's comments about Bannon mark the nadir of a relationship between strategist and candidate that paid massive dividends for both -- dating back to August 2016 when the former CEO of Breitbart News signed onto the Republican nominee's presidential campaign.
    Bannon provided the connective tissue for Trump's bare-boned "America First" nationalism. He helped Trump put policies to his instincts and then put those policies into action -- largely via executive orders and actions -- in the early days of the Trump presidency.
    Then two things happened.
    First, the Trump travel ban -- keeping residents of several majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States -- ran into massive legal trouble that forced the administration to rewrite it, and endure a major public relations nightmare. The travel ban was Bannon's brainchild; he regarded it as a necessary first step to enforcing America's borders, making good on a Trump campaign pledge and sending a signal to the world that there was a new sheriff in town.
    Bannon's high profile in the early days of the Trump administration led to the second development: A boomlet of coverage that suggested Bannon was the real power behind the Trump throne.
    There was the Time magazine cover featuring a pensive Bannon with the words "The Great Manipulator" stamped next to him. And then there was the "Saturday Night Live" send-up of Bannon as the Grim Reaper, operating Trump like a puppet.
    None of that sat well with a president who likes the spotlight to be on him -- always -- and who wants everyone to credit him for the brilliance in his various strategies and schemes.
    This, from a mid-February Washington Post story about the dynamic within the White House is illuminating:
    "Aides said Trump was especially upset by a sketch that cast White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon as the Grim Reaper manipulating the president — who was ultimately relegated to a miniature desk, playing dolefully with an expandable toy."
    Trump's assertion to both the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal that he is his own strategist and that he deserves all of the credit for getting elected reeks of his dissatisfaction with the way credit and attention is being doled out.
    In case anyone still didn't get that, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, himself the subject of rumors about his job status, made things very clear in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity Wednesday night.
    "I think the line has been blurred up a little bit," Spicer explained about the credit-taking within the White House. "(President Trump) wanted to make it very clear."
    Mission accomplished.
    The only question now is whether Bannon accepts his very public dressing-down and stays in the job or whether he walks away from the White House and returns to his comfortable sinecure in the conservative media orbit.
    One former Trump adviser told me last week that he had always expected Bannon to be the first senior adviser to leave the White House. "He's an ideologue," the source said about Bannon. "Trump is not. (He) has to get frustrated."
    John Weaver, a Republican political consultant who has been an outspoken voice against Trump, said in an email that "pretty clearly [Bannon] has been emasculated ... in terms of his own personal standing in the West Wing and the gutting of the nationalistic approach he so boldly (and nuttily) led."
    For now, Bannon is still ensconced in the White House. But, given what Trump has said about him, it's increasingly difficult to see how he stays there much longer.