Alice Stewart: Bannon angered Trump and was ousted, but he remains a supporter
Conservatives view Kellyanne Conway as their closest ally in the inner circle, Stewart writes
Editor’s Note: Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator and former communications director for Ted Cruz for President. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Two things are crystal clear after Steve Bannon’s ouster: One man gets the spotlight, and his name is President Donald Trump. And there’s a new sheriff in town – and his name is chief of staff John Kelly.
White House officials tell me this move is more operational than philosophical. Still, it’s politically risky. Bannon carried the flame for the President’s “drain the swamp” message and populist-nationalist agenda, and his departure could anger that base of support.
It could unleash the fury of the far right.
It’s hard to believe it’s just been a year since Bannon, then the head of the alt-right news site Breitbart, was named as a formal adviser to candidate Trump. Bannon was instrumental in helping President Trump get elected. He helped mobilize disaffected voters who were attracted to Trump.
The duo gave a voice to working-class Americans who opposed the Washington establishment. However, Bannon’s strong voice in the media lately led to his demise.
The former chief strategist gave four unauthorized interviews this week.
This is the very thing chief of staff Kelly vowed to put an end to. The most explosive interview was in The American Prospect with reporter Robert Kuttner.
Bannon contradicted Trump on key issues and undermined colleagues. As in any administration, this did not sit well with the boss.
The President was also reportedly troubled by Joshua Green’s book, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” which profiles Bannon and touts his role in the Trump campaign and presidency. The constant references to the book in the press rubbed the President and other administration officials the wrong way.
Bannon has returned to the helm of Breitbart and is expected to continue to promote the President’s agenda and their economic nationalism message.
Given the mutually beneficial relationship, I don’t see him fighting with President Trump.
Green talked to Bannon and tweeted that the former strategist is “going to war for Trump against his opponents.”
But who in the White House will continue to carry the nationalist torch? I don’t see it being Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster or his deputy, Dina Powell. None of them supports the nationalist message.
I am hearing from conservatives and many in the base that they view White House counselor Kellyanne Conway as their closest ally now.
After a tumultuous few weeks at the White House, with the departures of former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Anthony Scaramucci, Kelly indicates he’s “not done yet” with staff changes.
The latest course correction does serve as a positive sign that Kelly is working to right the ship and plug the leaks. Of course, President Trump’s use of Twitter and inability to stay on message will remain the iceberg in the water.