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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Team Steve vs. Team Jared

I'm still iffy on whether the Bannon/Kushner feud is real, for the reasons I've stated here. One of the ones I mentioned is that I don't think that Trump can afford to lose Breitbart. Ben Schreckinger at Politico muses about that possibility here:

Taken together, their suggestions amount to an epic, Kill Bill-style revenge saga that starts with Bannon leaking personal dirt on his enemies to the tabloids, using the megaphone of Breitbart News to exacerbate divisions inside the administration, and siccing an army of internet trolls on his adversaries to harass and defame them. It ends with Bannon using Cambridge Analytica data to identify and primary their vulnerable allies in Congress, then releasing a “Where Trump Went Wrong” documentary on the eve of the November midterms and finally—in this revenge fantasy’s epic climax—running against Trump himself in 2020.
Neither Bannon, who has shown no signs of disloyalty to the president, nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Bannon and the Mercer family, his patrons, declined to comment on the record, but there is little expectation among those who have tangled with him that the White House’s chief strategist — a guy who has been known to say things like “burn the boats” and “I love a gunfight” — intends to go gentle into that good night.
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“I don’t believe that he ever really stopped being at the helm of Breitbart,” said Kurt Bardella, who quit his job as a spokesman for the news organization last spring in protest of Bannon’s handling of an assault allegation lodged by then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields against then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.  

Forget Trump. I don't think Reince Priebus, who bet his entire legacy centuries beyond the grave on Trump's success, would have the stomach to face that. He factors heavily into really interesting piece at Vanity Fair in which Sarah Ellison describes the scene at the White House:

Before they joined the campaign, many of the current staffers had shown no allegiance to Trump. Steve Bannon, at the moment still the chief strategist, and the self-styled intellectual leader of Trump’s base of “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton called them, had tried on several other politicians—Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz—before settling on Trump, whom Bannon referred to last year in Vanity Fair as a “blunt instrument” for his own cause. Reince Priebus, Trump’s current chief of staff, is hardly a longtime loyalist. According to two senior administration officials, shortly before the election Priebus, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, was heard telling aides that Trump was likely going to lose, and that if he did it should not be seen as the fault of the R.N.C. At the same moment, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who had previously worked on the Cruz campaign, was heard telling reporters that if Trump lost it would be the fault of the R.N.C. (This despite her clarification on Twitter on Election Day that she wasn’t blaming the R.N.C. or Priebus.) The Priebus-Conway story circulates inside the Ivanka camp as a way of reminding everyone who Trump’s real allies are. But even Ivanka has told friends, almost by way of apology, “I didn’t ask for this.” Senior administration officials told me that both Bannon and Priebus partisans have spent hours on the phone with reporters, planting stories about each other and their colleagues.
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Reince Priebus, who represents the ever unpopular but ever essential establishment wing of the Republican Party, appeared to be on the ropes for a while but seems safe for now. “Reince isn’t going anywhere,” a senior administration official told me. Priebus has discovered, according to another senior administration official, that “it’s much better to try to be the solid chief of staff than aligned with someone.” Priebus, who is a friend of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, an erstwhile Trump critic, was seen as a necessary evil by the “movement” people. But the failure to repeal Obamacare left Priebus badly wounded.

If nothing else, Priebus, who never made sense to me as chair of the RNC, is a survivor. If either of our two contestants go down, Priebus will likely follow him through the door, and I don't see that happening, at least before the midterms, or at least until another conspicuous legislative loss. Booman appears to think that everything here comes down to legislation:

There is now a new genre of articles appearing about Bannon-supporting Republicans who are disillusioned with Trump’s pivot to the Democrats (even though this pivot is still in the theoretical stage), but these folks are suffering from the same delusions as many of Obama’s early critics, who couldn’t understand why he hadn’t closed the prison at Guantanamo or passed a bigger stimulus or enacted comprehensive immigration reform or moved faster on gay rights. A president can be guided by policies and principles but he or she must ultimately find a way to work within the power structure and political climate that exist not the ones he or she might wish exist. Some promises cannot be kept, and others need to get put low in the queue. Compromises have to made for anything to happen at all, and some results will be flawed as a result and need to be revisited by ensuing administrations.
Republican intransigence hurt Obama simply by making him look naive to promise that he could change how Washington works and find partners across the aisle. Donald Trump looks bad for a slightly different reason. He said he was an expert dealmaker and that many of our problems could be addressed quickly and surprisingly easily with his kind of leadership skills. That’s already looking like a bad joke as a set of promises.
What’s he realizing, too late, is that the deals he needed to make precluded him from going with an all-Republican legislative strategy. And, the need for Democrats meant that he was going to have to abandon his hard right promises.
The logic of legislating is forcing itself upon Trump now, but he’s too weak, tainted and vulnerable to recover from his initial miscalculations.
And no matter what he does, succeed or fail, his base is going to feel disappointed and betrayed. That’s the cost of living in a fantasy world and putting your trust in someone who promises you the impossible.

They've all screwed up equally... Trump himself, with Bannon and Kushner on each shoulder and Priebus somewhere around the crotch. How it sorts out is really unclear to me, but last night's Saturday Night Live presented us with a fun idea:




Good stuff. SNL's exploration of the normally-too-wonky-for-prime-time political domain is a big reason why it's had a revival this season

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