Bannon: Robespierre of the Right
Heading into Saturday, this could be, in short, Bannon’s own “Billy Bush weekend.” Bannon is fond of regaling those around him with the story of that October 2016 weekend after news of the Access Hollywood tape first broke. It’s how he took stock who was really on his side, and began, after their team hit rock bottom, to help vault Donald Trump into the White House shortly thereafter. Even Trump’s future chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had been urging Trump to call it quits. And Bannon claims Chris Christie, the almost vice president, was purged from the future Cabinet because he didn’t join the campaign on the plane that weekend.
For one, it’s possible Bannon is already well on his way to recovering some financial support. Drudge touted Miles Kwok, the exile Chinese financier, as Bannon’s new benefactor. Indeed, Bannon has highlighted Kwok’s plight personally to me before, and cited his case as partial rationale for his larger war on Susan Thornton, the State nominee he says is subservient to Beijing.
And in the meantime, one of two things—or both—could force the president and Bannon back into having to deal with each other. The first is policy. Bannonworld and Breitbart News provide much of the intellectual infrastructure for Trump’s program—unless he wants to abandon what he was elected on wholesale. They also share friends.
One example is John Bolton, the former UN ambassador—touted as a possible future replacement for National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster—who has butted heads with the president. Bolton is also the prominent political and financial sponsor for Kevin Nicholson, a rising star in Republican circles, running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, a critical brick of the “blue wall” Trump had to dismantle to become president. Bannon and Bolton’s relationship is close enough that the two funneled a plan for decertifying the Iran nuclear deal into conservative mainstay National Review and Bolton continues to meet with Trump at the White House.
A second possibility concerns history. Trump has excommunicated and lacerated people before, only to enthusiastically redevelop strong rapport later on. He once famously gave out Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number to a Republican primary crowd, and Graham fought tooth-and-nail against Trump—even endorsing Ted Cruz, who he called Satanic, as a means of trying to stop the New York mogul. Now the two are golfing buddies. “Lindsey. Used to be a great enemy of mine, now he’s a great friend of mine. I really like Lindsey. Can you believe that? I never thought I’d say that, but I do like him a lot,” the president said at the White House Thursday.
So what did Trump really do this week to Bannon? The president made the former White House chief strategist world-famous.
Curt Mills is a foreign-affairs reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @CurtMills.