At very least, he will now be forced to make a decision about Steve Bannon.
After Charlottesville, Donald Trump’s presidency is entering a new phase, and it is his own fault. It was Trump who decided to throw away prepared remarks on Saturday in favor of an equivocal statement that once again proved racists are the only group he can’t quite bring himself to condemn. It was Trump who decided to read a less equivocal statement on Monday, even if he read it in a tone that suggested his aides had a bayonet at his back. And it was Trump who gave a press conference yesterday in which he telegraphed his resentment of Monday’s statement while raving at the press about how there were some good and decent folks among those chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
The president will now be forced to choose between the Steve Bannon wing of his White House and nearly everybody else who works for him. The rumor mill has lately suggested that Bannon’s firing is imminent.
Bannon is the impresario behind Breitbart.com who went on to become Trump’s chief political strategist. Critics and admirers alike often try to guess what he really believes. They just can’t quite bring themselves to see that a spade is a spade. There is something cosmically funny and noncredible about the pockmarked and corpulent former Goldman Sachs honcho fostering an alt-right movement that curates fascist social-media accounts obsessed with bodybuilding, detests the influence of finance, and whispers that “physiognomy is real.” Bannon’s 2014 speech to a conference in the Vatican showed that he can “clean up” his own views when it suits him. Late last year, he protested to the Wall Street Journal that he has “zero tolerance” for “racist or anti-Semitic ideas.” On occasion, he has even hinted that the politics of Breitbart.com are partly the product of Machiavellian cynicism rather than sincerely held belief.
It’s astonishing how many people indulge this theory or find it exculpatory, how many people want to be in on the joke or the scam. Perhaps we should judge people by what they do. The website he edited, ostensibly dedicated to political and cultural coverage, had a section dedicated to “black crime,” which is to say it had a section dedicated to fomenting racism against African-Americans, nakedly advertising itself as such.
The results of Bannon’s political and entrepreneurial project are coming in. Has it resulted in an enlightened America First foreign policy, with trade barriers protecting a robust manufacturing economy and providing employment to men of all races, who can in turn feed their thriving families? No, it has not. It’s given us a dysfunctional administration and a polity even more divided than before.