Steve Bannon Is Not The President; Mike Pence Might Be

As the tug-of-war over the value of other human lives continues, leaks (or are they streams?) about the chaotic first days of Donald Trump continue to flow out of the West Wing. The report that’s drawing the biggest attention today is The New York Times’ Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles. It’s the opinion of some of the Lizard People that Trump calling out critical news reports on Twitter is his “tell”. By this reckoning, the more he protests, the greater the likelihood the report in question is 90 to 100 percent accurate. With that in mind…

What got under Cheeto Mussolini’s skin this time? Was it more embarrassing details about his television and junk food addictions? The revelation that even Don Lemon’s criticism can sting? His Oval Office drape snafu? The spooky story about him haunting the White House at night like a forlorn specter? The fact that his father’s middle name was Christ? Or was it the number of anonymous sources willing to talk to the Times?

This account of the early days of the Trump White House is based on interviews with dozens of government officials, congressional aides, former staff members and other observers of the new administration, many of whom requested anonymity. At the center of the story, according to these sources, is a president determined to go big but increasingly frustrated by the efforts of his small team to contain the backlash.

In a spectacular case of burying the lede, the Times waits 23 paragraphs to divulge:

Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.

The tidbit follows on the heels of a story by The Washington Post that Steve Bannon had to be forcefully reminded by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that he was not in fact the President of the United States. The Trump administration has denied that the incident took place, but it’s their natural inclination to deny everything. That the story, whatever its veracity, saw the light of day could be charitably viewed as factions within the federal government doing their best to limit the influence of extremist elements who have the president’s ear. This however ignores the reality that Trump is himself an extremist, and anonymous intragovermental leaks are useful for careerist power jockeying.

There may be good reason for the aggressive jockeying. Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich claims a former Republican member of Congress told him that most Republicans don’t view Trump as one of them. Trump, like many fascists, built a cult of personality-driven movement, then hijacked the RNC against the wishes of the establishment. Per Reich’s source, the GOP will “play along for a while … They’ll get as much as they want – tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare – and blame him. And he’s such a fool he’ll want to take credit for everything.” Then, when he inevitably trips up, they’ll move to impeach.

Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2008), maintains modern evangelicals are a dangerous mass movement, fascism in religious guise (For an earlier manifestation of this phenomenon in America, see Father Charles Coughlin). If the purge works and Mike Pence replaces Trump, the country will not have been spared from the authoritarian menace – it will have a more competent and polished authoritarian in Trump’s place. Keep that in the back of your head when you come across items like TIME’s just-published op-ed Why We’re Calling For Congress To Impeach Donald Trump.

(Year Zero/Day Eighteen)

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