Steve Bannon was all set to get a graceful boot in the ass back in July as new Chief of Staff John Kelly made Trump’s most special adviser an offer he couldn’t refuse.
John F. Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, told Stephen K. Bannon in late July that he needed to go: No need for it to get messy, Mr. Kelly told Mr. Bannon, according to several people with firsthand knowledge of the exchange.
But while Kelly kindly offered to have Bannon escorted off the premises without the use of whips and chains, Donald Trump’s latest dive into overtly supporting white supremacy interfered with the chief’s plan.
As Mr. Trump struggled last week to contain a growing public furor over his response to a deadly, race-fueled melee in Virginia, Mr. Bannon clashed with Mr. Kelly over how the president should respond. Give no ground to your critics, Mr. Bannon urged the president, with characteristic truculence.
So Steve Bannon hung around the White House to give Donald Trump extra-special stick-with-team-Nazi advice. The Monday appearance in which Trump dutifully—and with obvious reluctance—read from a text that condemns white supremacists, was all Kelly. The Tuesday appearance, where Trump let rip on the shocking fact that people opposed Nazis without a permit and maintained that a torch-wielding mob contained “many fine people,” was bolstered by the keen insight of Steve Bannon.
Bannon managed to alienate everyone in the White House, including Trump. But when it came time to deal with the alt-Reich, he was Trump’s most valued asset.
Steve Bannon is the new Dale Carnegie.
He had lost the war against a list of enemies that included nearly everyone in the West Wing. They included not just the adversaries whose conflicts with Mr. Bannon were widely aired — Gary D. Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser; Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter; and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.
Also against him was Mr. Kelly, who was outraged by the indiscretion Mr. Bannon displayed in the interview with The American Prospect, according to three senior administration officials. And Mr. Bannon could no longer turn to Mr. Trump, whose confidence in him had eroded over a period of months, to ask for a reprieve.
Bannon had burned so many bridges that he found himself sitting on a pile of ashes. There seemed to be no option but him to leave. Only then, at the last moment, came an issue that was right in his “I have a painting of myself as Napoleon” wheelhouse.
Now that Steve has given his final stiff-armed salute and returned to work at Breitbart (whose Monday morning headlines feature an attack on McMaster), Donald Trump will just have to decide how best to handle Nazis using his own delicate, carefully reasoned approach.