Bannon: The power behind the throne
Steve Bannon has quickly become “one of the world’s most powerful people,” said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. Until last year, the former Goldman Sachs banker ran the extreme right-wing website Breitbart.com, home of the white nationalist “alt-right.” After stepping in to help run Donald Trump’s faltering presidential campaign, Bannon was elevated to White House chief strategist—and has already pulled off “a power grab” that’s made him Trump’s most influential adviser. Bannon played a major role in crafting the president’s aggressively populist inaugural speech, and was the “driving force” behind the controversial travel ban and other executive orders. He’s also led the administration’s war on journalists, telling the media to “keep its mouth shut.” And in an unprecedented move for a political operative, Bannon was last week given a full seat on the National Security Council, the president’s key advisory group on foreign policy.
Bannon is a deeply alarming character—a true radical, said Heather Digby Parton in Salon.com. Only last summer, he described Trump as a “blunt instrument” for achieving Bannon’s own aims: to “blow everything up” and “destroy the existing social and political order.” Why? In interviews, Bannon has described Christian civilization as under mortal threat from unassimilated immigrants and radical Islam—threats he believes a decadent, secular West hasn’t taken seriously. What is such a xenophobic ideologue doing on the National Security Council? said David Rothkopf in The Washington Post. Bannon’s seven-year stint in the Navy 35 years ago hardly qualifies him to advise the president on national security issues. Incredibly, Trump has given Bannon a more powerful NSC role than the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence—who will henceforth only attend council meetings when “their specific expertise is seen to be required.”
No doubt about it: “Bannon is the central force shaping Donald Trump’s presidency,” said Adrian Carasquillo in BuzzFeed.com. But can he retain the mercurial Trump’s trust? Bannon once compared himself to Thomas Cromwell, noting that Henry VIII’s influential adviser had helped “usher in the English Reformation” by “giving force to Henry’s declarations.” Trump, however, doesn’t like his aides to get too much credit or attention, and won’t be happy people are starting to sarcastically call his chief strategist “President Bannon.” Don’t forget: “Cromwell was executed for treason by a fickle king.”