It’s no surprise: the Trump White House is in shambles. From repeated policy failures including the stonewalling of his bigoted Muslim travel ban to the implosion of Trumpcare, the reality star president has proven clueless and inept in the role of commander-in-chief. Factor in the stunning fact that the Trump Administration is under investigation by the FBI (something the agency’s director, James Comey, confirmed in a congressional hearing last month) along with Trump’s historically awful approval ratings, and it’s fair to say that things are not going as planned.
This week, as if on cue, there’s been a shake-up within Trump’s circle. Whether or not it helps pave the way for stability, we’ll see – but it’s big news.
People across the political spectrum were shocked when Steve Bannon – former CEO of the alt-right propaganda site Breitbart and tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist – received a seat on the (typically) non-partisan National Security Council (NSC). It is very unusual for a political operative to receive a seat on the NSC, as the council is designed to make sober-minded, non-political decisions that are life-and-death.
Bannon’s appointment was chilling; he holds a bizarre worldview, part of which includes the belief that the United States is locked into a civilizational conflict with Islam. Michael Flynn – Trump’s now disgraced former national security advisor who has sought immunity from Congress in return for testimony on Trump’s Russia ties – also held such dangerous and counterproductive views, raising fears among Republicans and Democrats alike that ideological preoccupations could override common sense when it came to pressing security matters under Trump.
After Flynn’s departure, a big sigh of relief came over Washington when H.R. McMaster ascended to the position of national security adviser. McMaster is widely considered a pragmatist, whose counter-insurgency tactics in Iraq hedged on shoring up support in local communities in order to drive out extremists. His presence does – at least to a small extent – lower the specter of reckless militaristic adventurism being carried out by Trump, who – desperate for a “win” – could look to any number of actions in an effort to save face.
While the enthusiasm exhibited by McMaster’s allies indicates that the national security advisor may be heavily responsible for Bannon’s ouster, the fact remains that there is festering tension between the hard-right nationalist wing of Trump’s inner circle and what they consider the “West Wing Democrats” – which include Trump’s more moderate New York advisors, such as the nepotistically appointed senior advisor Jared Kushner and former Goldman Saches executives Gary Cohn and Dina Powell. According to a report by the New York Times, Bannon allegedly threatened to quit if he was removed from the NSC, a move that Kushner and his allies supposedly lobbied for in the wake of the disastrous results stemming from Bannon’s far-right, nationalist influence on Trump.
After Bannon’s dismissal from the NSC, the Trump team concocted a weak explanation that made the ordeal sound like a mutual decision, but rest assured: as Trump drifts closer to being the single biggest failure of a president in modern history, certain forces within the White House will try to correct course. The only thing is, it may already be too late.