After an election in which he was President Trump’s “brain,” the White House’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, seems to be losing out in an administration riven with infighting, according to Politico. Some responsibilities appear to be sliding toward his most formidable rival in the president’s inner circle: Senior Adviser Jared Kushner.
Trump earlier this week removed Bannon as a principal on the National Security Council. The White House tried to pass off the move as routine, claiming that Bannon’s role was always meant to be temporary. But according to Politico, it so incensed the chief strategist and former Breitbart News head that he contemplated quitting.
Another sign of Bannon’s dropping stock in the administration is the near-disappearance of a “Strategic Initiatives Group,” a Bannon-helmed initiative that was supposed to work on a wide range of pressing national concerns. The White House again has claimed there’s nothing to see here, denying that the office ever existed. But West Wing reporters have seen door signs for the nonexistent “Strategic Initiatives Group.”
Then, too, the freshest leaks of the bickering have Bannon looking weak. He’s been lashing out at Kushner, calling him a “cuck” — right-wing slang for someone who’s not strong enough to be a true conservative.
Meanwhile, there’s no sign that Kushner’s responsibilities are lightening - if anything, they’re being piled high at the same time that his wife, Ivanka Trump, is formally entering the White House team. He’s been named head of an office of “American innovation,” a broad role that’s said to include working on disparate problems like opioid addiction, care for veterans and criminal justice reform.
And that’s on top of his other tasks: serving as an informal administration emissary to Silicon Valley, reaching out to foreign leaders like Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and managing crises for the leak-prone White House.
Bannon and Kushner are seen as representing two opposite poles in the administration. Kushner has been identified with the “West Wing Democrats” – a group of moderates who favor social liberalism and a traditional Republican tack on business issues. That group is said to include Economic Adviser Gary Cohn, Ivanka Trump confidante Dina Powell and Kushner.
Bannon, on the other hand, leads a faction that’s not only suspicious of right-wing orthodoxy on issues like trade, but also close to the “alt-right” – a collection of white nationalists, white supremacists and provocateurs most active online.
Though Kushner appears to now have the upper hand, fortunes can reverse rapidly in the Trump administration.
Just a couple of months ago, media reports speculated that Kushner was either a lackey or secondary adviser compared to Bannon. Despite his promises that his father-in-law would govern as a moderate, the administration in January issued its “Muslim ban” - while Kushner was observing the Sabbath on Friday night – and Bannon was appointed to the National Security Council. The press also reported that in public the first son-in-law appeared sallow and ill.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.