Was Steve Bannon really in the right role?
Color me skeptical about Steve Bannon's exit being a disaster for the Republican base and its grassroots agenda that supports Donald Trump.
Bannon's exit brings a certain ruefulness, given his talents during the presidential campaign. He was defiant, unconventional, riding the wave of where the public was, and very, very, victorious. The apoplectic rage he threw the left into was enough to make you like the man right there.
But there's a difference between the talents of those with campaign skills and those with executive skills. Bannon's success came from his campaign talents, not his executive ones. Campaign geniuses are similar to successful Hollywood types in that their lives revolve around "gigs," and they finish one and move to the next height. They are entrepreneurial, willing to challenge conventions, bold, shameless, and successful. Executive types, by contrast, are those people who are the engines of getting things done, working with the system that is there as it interlocks with many parts, making it work to support the aims of leader.
Did Bannon really perform well in such an executive role? He was in a White House desk job with the title "chief strategist," not out on the frontlines as he had been in the past. He did have actual executive experience, but it was at the highly entrepreneurial disruptor media site Breitbart News, not exactly a copy of the history-laden White House. He also had experience as a naval officer, but at best, he was an entrepreneurial executive, not a necessary swamp thing who could manipulate the establishment effectively. He also had a famously bloated staff, which couldn't have helped in any speed of execution.
And so what he did wasn't all that impressive toward helping Trump get things done.
Bannon was known for his effort to check immigration from those coming from terrorist-infested countries, which later became known as "the Muslim ban." That didn't succeed at all, as judge after judge, usurping authority, managed to grind it to a halt. The intention was great, the execution not so much. The bottom line is, it didn't advance the Trump agenda; it just made Trump look like a failure at getting things done.
Bannon also was the author of various anti-China moves that will halt trade and raise prices for consumers, and some of those moves are still coming up. Is this really the best thing for America? I am skeptical on this front, too, because the Trump team still has not told us well what it expects that free trade should be, and it will have to come to terms with the fact that free trade can be a blessing, as all presidents eventually do. This isn't even a very exciting issue, which probably means these anti-China moves won't impress Trump.
Another thing we know about Bannon is his propensity for going to the edge. He has associates with the Alt-Right who have come too close to very extremist white nationalist groups, who are now the focus of a media feeding frenzy that, again, President Trump is not winning on. I don't want to sort these people out; I know that Bannon is no racist and no Nazi sympathizer, as the left disgustingly paints him. But his past support of nationalism isn't helping Trump shake the impression that he's soft on these groups. Bannon hasn't been able to help on this front, and in reality, intentionally or not, he does the opposite. The bottom line here again is, is Bannon helping Trump successfully execute his agenda with this baggage? I am going to say not.
The media do suggest that with Bannon's exit, Sebastian Gorka will go. I am inclined to hope that is not the case, because Gorka really is effective as a detailed spokesman for the Trump administration on foreign policy matters. He does perform in the role he has and does it well. There is no reason to think his views are exactly the same as Bannon's. News reports say he's spoken off kilter and displeased Chief of Staff General John Kelly, but there is no reason he can't be steered in the direction the executive talent wishes to go.
What does Trump want? It seems he highly prizes competence and clout. He wants a White House that really is effective and "the best" at getting the job done. He is a man of action, after all. That's why Trump's been amassing generals such as Kelly and H.R. McMaster for the top spots in the White House. They are swampers but not the worst ones, and they seem to have sufficient comity with Trump, who needs them. They don't have personalities or even views like Trump's, but they do keep a sense of control, which frees Trump up to be himself instead of on the defensive.
Bannon never was able to assume that kind of role. The media insisted he wielded great power, but it was hardly true, given that what he attempted to accomplish wasn't really successful, and he often turned out to be a liability for Trump.
Good man, misplaced talent. He is likely to be more effective on the outside and may do great things to advance the Trump agenda once he has a free hand to be his own man again and wield his entrepreneurial skills. As for Trump, it seems he is going for the men and women with the temperament to enact results. That's not a disaster for the republic.