Axios's Mike Allen reports that Steve Bannon is back:
Steve Bannon, the proud culture warrior who was briefly and very publicly in the Trump doghouse, is ascendant after what friends call a period of "hibernation."
...His ideas are being taken seriously, and his worldview is clearly in Trump's head....
It's possible that Bannon is just telling Allen a self-aggrandizing story, but Trump does seem to doing Bannonesque things these days. Allen writes:
* Bannon loves, enables, encourages the smackdowns with the media.
* Bannon loves, enables, encourages the middle finger to NATO, and Germany in particular.
* Bannon loves, enables and encourages the instincts that led Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.
* Bannon loves, enables, encourages tougher tone and trade action against China.
* Bannon loves, enables encourages a hard line on immigration.
* Bannon loves, enables, encourages a base-first and often base-only strategy.
The State Department is being hollowed out -- that seems like Bannon's idea. (Max Bergmann, a former State Department official, recently wrote about the understaffing for Politico and speculated that "Perhaps [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon.") Trump's first stop on his current European trip is right-populist, anti-immigrant, pro-coal, climate-change-skeptical, authoritarian Poland. That really seems like Bannon's idea.
Axios told us recently that Bannon wants a tax increase on the wealthy. That's a Bannon idea Trump isn't going to go along with. Allen writes that Bannon's worldview "is Trump's worldview," but that's not really true -- Trump's worldview is maybe 25% Bannon's and 75% the worldview of Roger Ailes and Fox News. Fox would never back a tax hike on the rich.
Trump is a billionaire who wants more money for his class and fewer regulations on his class. On this and most other issues, Trump is a Fox Republican. When Fox doesn't have a strong opinion, Bannon is free to steer Trump in the direction of white-nationalist Pat Buchananism.
But Trump's worldview does not include liberalism, or even moderation. It consists of Fox-style middle fingers interleaved with Bannon-style middle fingers. If Trump wanted to, he could flip off Senate Republicans and publicly embrace Chuck Schumer on health care. If he wanted to, he could reject the GOP's screw-the-poor, aggrandize-the-rich tax plans. But he's doing nothing of the sort, and he never will.
I was wrong when I predicted a couple of months ago that Bannon would be let go. But I never believed that Trump would become some sort of centrist Democrat in the mold of, say, Corey Booker, or any other Democrat Jared and Ivanka have given money to in the past. I've always told you that Trump is a Republican, and that's still true. It's just that occasionally he's a Bannon Republican.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog