Bannon Out, But Most Definitely Not Dead

Trump's Rasputin has left the building. That doesn't mean he still won't be whispering in the president's ear.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01:  Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon helps with last minute preparations before President Donald Trump announces his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House June 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump pledged on the campaign trail to withdraw from the accord, which former President Barack Obama and the leaders of 194 other countries signed in 2015 to deal with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance so to limit global warming to a manageable level.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon helps with last minute preparations before President Donald Trump announces his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House June 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump pledged on the campaign trail to withdraw from the accord, which former President Barack Obama and the leaders of 194 other countries signed in 2015 to deal with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance so to limit global warming to a manageable level. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon helps with last minute preparations before President Donald Trump announces his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House June 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump pledged on the campaign trail to withdraw from the accord, which former President Barack Obama and the leaders of 194 other countries signed in 2015 to deal with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance so to limit global warming to a manageable level. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Steve Bannon has left the building. Well, maybe. Being "fired" does not mean expulsion from the royal presidential court. Corey Lewandowski still maintains his links to the president. And so will Bannon.

These men appeal to the president's baser instincts, which were very much on display in his impromptu outburst on Tuesday and which appear to be the only instincts he has. Lewandowski and now Bannon were (temporarily) expelled from Trump's circle because the president cannot tolerate a subordinate's contradicting him or, even worse, garnering more publicity in the media.

Bannon was guilty of both cardinal sins. He undermined the president's bluster in responding to the North Korea crisis and in claiming that he controlled State Department appointments -- displaying a degree of arrogance that the president invariably reserved for himself. Worse, however, was Brannon's competing with Trump for dominance of the news cycle, thanks to his remarks to the American Prospect.

Steve Bannon has left the building. Well, maybe. Being “fired” does not mean expulsion from the royal presidential court. Corey Lewandowski still maintains his links to the president. And so will Bannon.

These men appeal to the president’s baser instincts, which were very much on display in his impromptu outburst on Tuesday and which appear to be the only instincts he has. Lewandowski and now Bannon were (temporarily) expelled from Trump’s circle because the president cannot tolerate a subordinate’s contradicting him or, even worse, garnering more publicity in the media.

Bannon was guilty of both cardinal sins. He undermined the president’s bluster in responding to the North Korea crisis and in claiming that he controlled State Department appointments — displaying a degree of arrogance that the president invariably reserved for himself. Worse, however, was Brannon’s competing with Trump for dominance of the news cycle, thanks to his remarks to the American Prospect.

It should be recalled that Mike Flynn’s forced resignation took place not after Trump was informed of his connections to Russia — after all, the president has hardly evinced any concern about that country or its leader. Nor did Flynn ever contradict the president. Rather, Flynn was let go after his name appeared more often than the president’s above the fold on the front pages of the very newspapers Trump supposedly disdains.

There can be no avoiding the reality that the president of the United States is, at a minimum, unperturbed by the xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and racist impulses that have won him the support of the likes of David Duke — and that Bannon has encouraged, if not personally exemplified. Firing Bannon changes nothing, other than perhaps temporarily diverting the nation’s attention away from Trump’s outrageous remarks to the press regarding the alt-right and neo-Nazis.

Bannon will not be gone for long. He will continue to whisper in the president’s ear. And of far greater consequence, there can be little doubt that — at immeasurable cost to national cohesion and American leadership abroad — the president will continue to respond to Brannon’s malign musings for some time to come.

Photo credit:  CHIP SOMODEVILLA/Getty Images

Dov Zakheim is the former Under Secretary of Defense.

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