Earlier this week, Vanity Fair was out with a truly amusing piece that lent further credence to the notion that Donald Trump is unravelling.
Now to be sure, the “Trump train” was off the rails before it ever left the station. Objectively speaking, there hasn’t been a single day since the inauguration that has gone completely according to plan. I don’t think even the most ardent Trump supporters would disagree with that, because you can admit it without blaming the President.
But since the beginning of August, the pace at which things are going down Hill (get it? “Hill“?) has accelerated meaningfully. And it’s not hard to understand why. In August, Trump was confronted with his first real foreign policy challenge and simultaneously, he faced his first real domestic crisis when events in Charlottesville forced him to tip his hand on race relations.
Between “fire and fury” and the bizarre August 15 press conference that found Trump regaling reporters with tales of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves, the stage was set for lawmakers to begin seriously questioning the President’s fitness to serve and that’s exactly what happened. Fast forward to October and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, pushed over the edge by a series of ill-advised presidential tweets, told The New York Times that “the vast majority” of Senate Republicans are concerned with “what we’re dealing with.” He also said Trump could stumble into “World War III.”
Trump’s attack on Corker was, according to a number of associates and advisers, representative (double entendre alert) of the President’s growing paranoia and frustration. According to one aide who spoke to the Washington Post, Trump is “a pressure cooker” who needs to blow off steam lest he should “explode.”
All of that served as the context for the Vanity Fair article mentioned here at the outset. In it, Gabriel Sherman says that according to “a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers,” the President is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.” The excerpt from that piece which grabbed headlines was this:
Even before Corker’s remarks, some West Wing advisers were worried that Trump’s behavior could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary Constitutional measures to remove him from office. Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment—the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president.
When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, “What’s that?” According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.
As we wrote earlier this week, if that’s true, it is “big league” news, because it suggests that Bannon, now on the outside, knows there’s blood in the water. And if he thinks for a second that Trump is going to abandon “the cause” (where that means Steve’s agenda), he’ll turn on this President and use Breitbart to kill whatever’s left of his support with the populist base.
That underscores a strange dilemma Bannon currently faces: keep his pledge to support Trump or, realizing that the President is at best backed into a corner and will be forced to compromise to get anything done and at worst set to get himself impeached, abandon him and try to implement the populist agenda by orchestrating more coups like what we saw in the Alabama primary.
Well on Saturday, Bannon addressed the Vanity Fair piece during a speech at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, and here’s what he said:
Got that? Here it is again:
The populist, nationalist, conservative revolt that’s going on, that drove Donald Trump to victory, that drove Judge [Roy] Moore to victory, that will drive 15 candidates to victory in 2018, and I hate to break it Graydon Carter and the good folks at Vanity Fair, but yes, President Trump is not only going to finish this term, he’s going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020.
So beyond the obvious (which is that Donald Trump probably isn’t even going to be President in 2020 let alone run again let alone win again let alone win 400 electoral votes), I hope you see the contradiction in what Bannon said.
“The populist, nationalist, conservative revolt” that drove Donald Trump and Roy Moore to victory is no longer part of Donald Trump’s plan because that mentality has led directly to legislative roadblock after legislative roadblock and will continue to do so.
So when Steve Bannon talks about Moore and Trump in the same sentence, you’re encouraged to remember that Trump went out of his way to back Moore’s opponent even as Breitbart when of its way to ensure Moore’s victory. Which brings us right back to the Vanity Fair piece. To wit:
Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche. He saw the cult of personality was broken.
See the inconsistency in Bannon’s message? I hope so, because you can bet Steve understands it all too well.