Editorials

Steve Bannon is out, but his sickness still infects White House

A Jan. 28 photo of President Donald Trump and his inner circle went viral after the dismissal of Steve Bannon. Trump is talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office with, second from left, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Only Trump and Pence remain.
A Jan. 28 photo of President Donald Trump and his inner circle went viral after the dismissal of Steve Bannon. Trump is talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office with, second from left, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Only Trump and Pence remain. Associated Press

Good riddance, Steve Bannon.

Bannon’s dismissal as White House chief strategist on Friday doesn’t mean his divisive and toxic white nationalist views have left as well. Indeed, President Donald Trump showed this week – in his despicable response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va. – that he is infected by this sickness.

Bannon’s departure, however, does deepen the sense of chaos enveloping the Trump administration. It really does seem like the latest episode of “White House Survivor.”

A photo went viral soon after Bannon’s exit became public. Taken on Jan. 28, a week into Trump’s presidency, it’s a portrait of the official inner circle in the Oval Office. Less than eight months later, of the six men, only Trump and Vice President Mike Pence remain in office. Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, was first to go, in February. He was followed by Press Secretary Sean Spicer in July, then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. And now Bannon, who immediately returned to his right-wing Breitbart News website and vowed to crush his opposition.

Even in his short stint, Bannon did damage to our nation. His fingerprints were on the anti-Muslim travel ban, which thankfully is tied up in the courts, and on a self-defeating plan to slash legal immigration. And his brand of economic nationalism and anti-immigrant hysteria helped propel Trump to the presidency in the first place.

That’s another takeaway from Bannon – Trump has no loyalty to anyone but himself. No matter how crucial their past support or backing for his agenda in the future, he is willing to throw aides and fellow Republicans under the bus if they oppose or slight him in the least. Or if they upstage him.

Bannon repeated the mistake made by Anthony Scaramucci – White House communications director for all of 11 days before being forced out – of giving an interview that got lots of attention. Bannon talked to the liberal American Prospect magazine and ridiculed his rivals in the Defense and State departments. He also said that the U.S. is losing an economic war with China, and that there is not a realistic military option to stop North Korea’s nuclear missile program, contradicting senior defense officials.

Mixed messaging is only one of the problems at the Trump White House. Principled conservatives should seriously consider leaving while they still have a shred of dignity.

But the shortcomings start from the top, the president himself. He’s captain of the ship, and it’s sinking fast.

At an event Friday February 24, 2017, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein answered a question about whether she would work to revoke White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's security clearance. Video courtesy of the Public Policy Institute of California

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