The image at the top of this post is an illustration of Dante’s Inferno, the cantos dealing with the 8th circle of Hell, the circle devoted to hypocrites and false counselors. It seems apt in discussing Steve Bannon, the new White House Strategic Adviser, filling in the same roles as David Axelrod for the Clinton Administration and Karl Rove for the Bush Administration. Had Clinton been President, John Podesta likely would’ve been her strategic adviser.
A strategic adviser’s job is to tell the President that a given course of action will play poorly to the presumptive voter base that put the President in office. It is a traditional “reward job” for the chief of staff for a successful Presidential campaign.
The amount of influence that adviser has varies from Administration to Administration, and in a typical Administration, the strategic adviser usually works most closely with the press secretary in the White House.
There are myriad accusations that Steve Bannon is an anti-Semite, white nationalist, etc. I don’t know if he is. I don’t know if he isn’t. I know that the chief claim that he’s an anti-Semite stems from claims made by his wife in their divorce. I know that Jewish reporters (and gay reporters) at Breitbart stand up for him, and at least one Jewish writer refers to him as a friend of Israel. I know that disgruntled former Breitbart employees have nothing remotely kind to say about him…but don’t call him a racist. They call him an opportunist, a liar, and a bully.
Whether Bannon is a racist is irrelevant. He doesn’t need to be one to be unsuited to the job. He is damned by his own character.
Bannon’s single greatest thrill in life is the wailing and complaints of those who oppose him. He doesn’t pay attention to what the voter base wants; he only pays attention to what the “right people” are “butthurt” over. He’s a 4chan comment section made flesh.
For whatever “good” news there is in Bannon’s appointment, it’s this:
Trump has stated (and shows many indications of following through on) that he wants to leave the “boring stuff” to Mike Pence.
Trump doesn’t care about being re-elected. Trump doesn’t care about disappointing his voter base. Mike Pence does…and having a strategic adviser who counts success by trolling, rather than measured impact and benefit for the voters who put the campaign over the top is unlikely to be stable for long.
Remember, Trump’s signature tag-line is “You’re fired!” He has no HR skills to speak of; he’s never needed them. Trump seems unable to evaluate the talent or capabilities of anyone, he just assumes that if he likes them, they’re “the best at what they do.”
When Bannon screws up, I fully expect him to try to sue Trump for not having been paid…