Steve Bannon is no longer at the White House, but nationalism is very much alive and well.
President Donald Trump is cleaning house and going with his nationalist gut now. Soon-former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and now-former top economic adviser Gary Cohn are the casualties. And the message should be clear.
What ties Tillerson, the former Exxon CEO, and Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president, is globalism, or rather their advocacy for international agreements. Trump called them both out very specifically in his remarks about their respective departures.
Trump was kind to both men in wishing them well, but it was clear that their positions in favor of international communities would not abide in the Trump White House anymore.
Here’s what Trump had to say about Tillerson when he talked to reporters on the White House lawn Tuesday.
“Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time,” Trump said. “We got along, actually, quite well, but we disagree on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he felt it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not thinking the same.”
That Iran deal, by the way, a signature accomplishment of the Obama administration, was a multi-country agreement between Iran and Western nations in which Iran would agree to curb aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
How to remove the US from that deal even as Iran continues to abide by it has been a key foreign relations problem for Trump.
With Tillerson on his way out and CIA Director Mike Pompeo tapped to be the President’s top diplomat, the future of the Iran deal probably gets a lot murkier.
After talking to reporters Tuesday morning, Trump hopped in Air Force One and jetted off to California, by the way, where he’ll view prototypes for the southern border wall that would deliver on his signature campaign promise.
The wall promise, and his likely inability to make Mexico pay for it, has poisoned his relationship with the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump did exempt Mexico, for now, from his new steel and aluminum import tariffs, but he’s made clear that if Canada and Mexico don’t work to renegotiate NAFTA, he’ll remove the US from that international deal, too.
It was the tariffs that drove Cohn from the White House, which he announced last week.
Trump said he still likes Cohn, but the policy differences were too much as the President carried through on his threat to impose tariffs.
“He may be a globalist, but I still like him,” Trump said in front of TV cameras at a White House meeting. “He is seriously a globalist. There’s no question. In his own way, but you know what, he’s a nationalist. He loves our country.”
This ongoing reorganization at the White House makes it very clear that Trump wants to carry forward making decisions that make sense to him.
He also told reporters Tuesday that Tillerson wasn’t involved in his shock decision to agree to a meeting with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un because Trump made that decision himself.
Got that? There’s a new Trump in town. He’s clearing globalists out of the White House. He’s more interested in direct relations with countries than multilateral agreements, and that’s that.
Bannon, out of favor though he is, would be proud. In fact, Bannon is proud. Axios reporter Jonathan Swann tweeted a text from Bannon, who has been espousing nationalism in Europe in recent weeks.
“Unprompted text message I just received from Steve Bannon (punctuation intact): “Come on dude!!!…end of the globalists !!!”